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1st Sergeant Peter Smith taking command during the Second Battle of Fallujah

Posted at 2:20 PM, Apr 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-23 17:22:04-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — He served his country during the Global War on Terror and his quick thinking helped ensure the success of his unit during the Second Battle of Fallujah — earning him a Silver Star.

1st Sergeant Peter Smith grew up overseas.

“I’m originally from Germany, my dad was an airborne ranger," Smith said.

In fact, he spent his whole childhood and the first half of adulthood in Germany and it wasn’t until he was 25 that he felt the call to join the U.S. Army.

“Best thing I ever did. I just fit into the army. It was easy for my, I loved to do it and everything just fell into place," he said.

A Master Gunner, Airborne Infantry, Pathfinder, and Drill Sergeant of the Year. The titles kept coming.

But the moment that sticks with him always came in 2004 when he was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, fighting in the Second Battle of Fallujah.

“Fallujah was definitely the most frightening and scary one, but also the most exciting," he said. "It was like when you watch old war pictures from World War II and you see the bombings and the buildings, and you see those type of street fights. That’s what it was there.”

Over the span of a few days, Smith’s unit lost their Command Sgt. Major. Later his Executive Officer was killed. Then his Company Commander.

After losing three of this commanding officers, Smith knew he had step up and take over command. He said during the battle, he didn’t have time to think about casualties or the loss of his brothers in arms. At that point all that mattered the was the mission at hand.

“18 days of continuous fighting, the entire leadership was taken out,” he said.

A new commander was on the way, but the battle couldn’t wait, so it fell to Smith. For 18 hours, he led his unit through street to street fighting, the battlefield like a checkers board slowly clearing each box as you push forward.

“It’s something that molds you to the person that you are. You train up for it your entire military career," he said. "Then once you get to an environment like that you hope you remember everything, but it automatically comes back to you.”

Sorting out units, calling artillerym a brigade of rolling thunder leveling the board.

“There was no ROIs, or rules of engagement. It was crystal clear what the mission is, it was nonstop fighting but there was no doubt who was going to come out on top: the best army ever," he said.

While his mind was on the attack, his heart stayed with his men, evacuating combat casualties injured in during the battle and helping ensure they make it home.

“If I could bring one person back and give that award back, I would do that," he said.

His bravery earning him a Silver Star, but for him, he feels the real reward every time he reunites with his unit.

“The men that served down there with me, what they think of me, that’s more important than anything hanging the wall," he said.