The students taking courses at the Combat Skills Training School don’t doubt their teacher’s knowledge, but it’s hard to see the man behind the information as a decorated combat veteran.
Staff Sgt. Logan Cortes, an instructor with the 1st Marine Logistics Group’s CST at Camp Pendleton, Calif., is a Bronze Star recipient and currently teaches Marines how to use the weapons systems he had first-hand experience with in Iraq.
“He is a great role model,” said Lance Cpl. Jose Laguna, CST instructor, Combat Skills Training School, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st MLG, 26, from Dallas.
Even though he was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions, he still thinks about the Marines who were there with him that day.
“I don’t think I deserve a Bronze Star for my actions out there,” Cortes said. “I wasn’t the only person out there. There were the other Marines covering me when I went out to recover those guys.”
It started with Marines storming door-to-door looking for insurgents in New Ubaydi, Iraq. But for 2nd Platoon, Nov. 16, 2005 turned into an ambush and proved one Marine’s courage and commitment to his fellow Marines.
Cortes was a machinegun section leader with Company F, Battalion Leading Team 2/1, Regimental Combat Team 2, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, when his unit moved in to clear a small single-story building and was engaged by an enemy ambush.
“We were told that there were three insurgents inside one of the houses we were clearing that day,” said Cortes. “So I led a team into a position so we could help engage the enemy. It turned out to be an ambush,” said Cortes, 33, from Stockton, Calif.
During the heated firefight with the enemy combatants, Cortes was informed that there were casualties inside one of the buildings.
He dashed from his covered position to retrieve a Marine who suffered wounds to both of his legs from a grenade blast, and pulled him to safety as bullets from allies and enemies flew past his body.
“After I pulled the Marine to the covered position, I saw the machine gunner lying on the ground,” Cortes explained. “I was like ‘are you OK? Why are you lying on the ground?’ Turns out he was out of ammo so I ran back to grab some more for him. After I brought back the ammo an insurgent jumped out with an AK-47.”
Cortes quickly dispatched the enemy combatant. He saw more casualties and once again left his position to recover another wounded Marine.
For his courageous actions that day, Staff Sgt. Cortes was awarded the Bronze Star, the fourth-highest combat award. Cortes also recognized Lance Cpl. Roger Deeds, who was the only Marine in his fire team killed during the operation that day.
“I still think I don’t deserve the Bronze Star,” Cortes said. “I believe [Lance Cpl. Deeds] traded his life for mine.”
Other than being a great role model, Marines that work with Cortes have many good things to say about him.
“He treats you like a Marine, but first as a man,” said Sgt. Jared Louis Thom, CST instructor, Combat Skills Training School, CLR-17, 1st MLG. “He’s the first to help you and makes sure you’re setup and doing the right thing for yourself. He will stand up for what is right no matter what the consequences are.”
He also added that meeting Marines like Cortes isn’t an everyday occurrence.
Students at the CST benefit from learning from this Marine who has had experience on the battlefield and passes what he knows on to them. He encourages them to do the right thing at all times.
Someone pointing at a PowerPoint presentation may not look like a Marine who ducked and dodged bullets to save his fellow Marines’ lives in Iraq, but the man behind the information has a lot to offer.
Story by Sgt. Jennifer Brofer