A Marine received the Navy Cross for fighting like he was in a real-life video game

Updated onMar 24, 2023 10:15 AM PDT
3 minute read
marine navy cross

Marine Capt. Brian R. Chontosh received the Navy Cross Medal from the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, during an awards ceremony May 6, 2004.


No matter what first-person shooter you’re playing, everyone knows what happens when you run out of ammo. Whether it’s “Call…

No matter what first-person shooter you’re playing, everyone knows what happens when you run out of ammo. Whether it’s “Call of Duty,” “Goldeneye 64,” or even “Doom,” your character fires until his ammo is gone, then picks up the enemy’s gun and uses that until the ammo is gone. Marine Corps Capt. Brian R. Chontosh fought the American invasion of Iraq like he was leading a Call of Duty platoon, for just this reason, earning him a Navy Cross. Time and again, his actions sound like something a video game player does in the virtual world, things few people have the fortitude to try in real life. 

It just so happened that Chontosh was a quick-thinking Marine, and his gaming-level tactics were just what the Corps needed to save lives and defeat the enemy. For his quick thinking and incredible heroics, he received the Navy Cross, the Marine Corps’ second-highest award for battlefield valor. 

And it was well-deserved. In March 2023, the Marines were cruising up Iraq’s Highway 1 toward the provincial capital of Ad-Diwaniyah. Chontosh was leading his platoon from the passenger seat of a Humvee, so when it suddenly came under fire from a coordinated attack of mortars, RPGs, and heavy machine guns, he knew they were in a tough spot. 

Specifically, the tough spot was an ambush kill zone. With Coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, Chontosh refused to sit on the X and let his Marines get wiped out. He ordered the driver to speed to the side of the road, where the vehicle immediately came under heavy machine gun fire. Instead of driving away, they sped straight at the machine gun position.

The gunner on the Humvee silenced the Iraqi machine gunner with the onboard .50-cal as the Humvee drove right into the enemy trench. Almost machine-like, Chontosh exited the vehicle and began clearing the trench of Iraqi troops with his M-16 rifle. When that ran out, he dropped it and used his sidearm, a 9mm pistol. 

Chontosh was out of ammo, but the Iraqis weren’t out of soldiers. So he did what any quick-thinking Marine might do, and definitely something Master Chief from the “Halo” series would do: he picked up the enemy’s AK-47 rifle. Using the enemy’s weapon against them, he fought on. When it ran out, he picked up another AK-47. 

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy Vought

Despite Capt. Chontosh’s aggressive push against the entire Iraqi trench, the Iraqi soldiers fought for their lives in the face of a Marine who had no pause button. Chontosh and the Marines found a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, which Chontosh immediately used to wipe out even more enemy soldiers. 

When the violence settled down, the final score was 200 meters of enemy trench cleared, 20 dead enemy troops, and many more injured. The Marine platoon was not wiped out and were able to press on to their objective. Little over a year later, Chontosh was back at Camp Pendleton, getting the Navy Cross pinned to his uniform.

"I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines, the experience put a lot into perspective," said Chontosh.


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