On June 17, 2010, Then-Cpl. Clifford Wooldridge was with his Marines in a humvee when his convoy came under heavy attack from approximately 15 Taliban fighters.
What happened next was astounding.
His Navy Cross citation — reads:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Corporal Clifford M. Wooldridge, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as Vehicle Commander, Combined Anti-Armor Platoon White, Weapons Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, FIRST Marine Division (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) Afghanistan, on 18 June 2010 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
When their mounted patrol came under intense enemy fire, Corporal Wooldridge and his squad dismounted and maneuvered on the suspected enemy location. Spotting a group of fifteen enemy fighters preparing an ambush, Corporal Wooldridge led one of his fire teams across open ground to flank the enemy, killing or wounding at least eight and forcing the rest to scatter. As he held security alone to cover his fire team's withdrawal, he heard voices from behind an adjacent wall. Boldly rushing around the corner, he came face-to-face with two enemy fighters at close range, killing both of them with his M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon. As he crouched back behind the wall to reload, he saw the barrel of an enemy machine gun appear from around the wall. Without hesitation, he dropped his empty weapon and seized the machine gun barrel.
He overwhelmed the enemy fighter in hand-to-hand combat, killing him with several blows to the head with the enemy's own machine gun. His audacious and fearless actions thwarted the enemy attack on his platoon. By his bold and decisive leadership, undaunted courage under fire, and total dedication to duty, Corporal Wooldridge reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.
Here's how his summary of action (a longer version of the story, used to approve the citation) recounts the struggle:
Corporal Wooldridge then took cover back around the corner and quickly began to reload. While attempting to reload his weapon, he saw the barrel of a machine gun appear around the corner of the wall just a few feet from him. Without hesitation, he threw his empty SAW to the ground, and grabbed the barrel of the machine gun.
Corporal Wooldridge then wrestled the surprised enemy fighter to the ground. As the two grappled for control of the machine gun, the enemy fighter released the machine gun and reached for one of his grenades in an attempt to kill himself and Corporal Wooldridge. Corporal Wooldridge immediately took control of the machine gun and beat the enemy fighter to death by hitting him with several blows to the head with his own weapon before the enemy could pull the pin on the grenade.
Shortly after, the remaining members of his team came around the corner and witnessed the three dead enemy fighters and Corporal Wooldridge standing over one fighter holding the machine gun.