By Gina Cavallaro -Military Times Staff writer
Two California-based Marines are scheduled to receive Navy Cross awards on Friday for their actions during separate battles in Afghanistan's Helmand province.
The recipients are Sgt. Cliff Wooldridge of Twentynine Palms and Sgt. Christopher Farias of Camp Pendleton. The Navy Cross is the nation's second-highest award for combat valor, below only the Medal of Honor.
Wooldridge, a member of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, is credited with fending off a Taliban ambush in close-quarters battle on June 18, 2010, in Musa Qala.
During the engagement, Wooldridge snatched a machine gun from the hands of an enemy fighter and, following a tense struggle on the ground, killed his opponent by striking him in the head with the weapon's butt stock. The remaining Taliban then retreated, ending a potentially deadly ambush against Wooldridge's platoon, according to an account of the battle provided to Marine Corps Times in late 2010.
Wooldridge is scheduled to receive his award from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
Farias, a member of 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, is credited with repelling a Taliban ambush Oct. 5, 2010, that threatened to overrun his unit's patrol base in Helmand's Kajaki district.
During the battle, Farias and several other Marines were severely wounded by explosive rounds fired from a recoilless rifle. Nevertheless, Farias pulled himself up, directed triage efforts and then called for suppressive machine gun fire, according to a news release from the 1st Marine Division, his unit's parent command. His actions as an assistant squad leader allowed for the safe evacuation of his wounded comrades.
Farias is scheduled to be recognized by Navy Undersecretary Robert Work.