RAND Europe Researcher Receives Medal for Heroic Actions During Attack in Iraq

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April 30, 2004

Andrew Rathmell, a RAND Corporation researcher who risked his life to protect others during a mortar and rocket attack in Iraq, has become the first non-American to receive the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense Medal of Valor.

The British citizen -- based at the RAND Europe office in Cambridge, U.K. -- received the medal Thursday from L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, at a ceremony in Baghdad. The RAND researcher is on temporary assignment as director of policy planning and analysis at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

Rathmell was with a group of six U.S. military personnel, fellow RAND researcher David Brannan, and an Iraqi translator when hostile forces began firing at them shortly after they exited vehicles at Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Baquba on Jan. 21. One mortar landed close to Rathmell, knocking him to the ground and leaving him temporarily deafened by the blast.

Rathmell said he and a Marine captain ran into the line of fire three times to bring U.S. Army Col. Ralph Sabatino, Brannan, an Army captain, an Army enlisted man and the Iraqi translator behind a protective barrier near the base command center and administer first aid until medics arrived. Without their action, the wounded men would have remained exposed to more fire on open ground, and their wounds would have gone unattended. Two other soldiers were killed in the attack.

"It never occurred to me just to run for cover," Rathmell said. "There wasn't any question of just letting go and running off, I couldn't leave the others there. You'd expect other people to do the same for you."

Rathmell said that Brannan, who was hit by shrapnel in the ribs, and Col. Sabatino were back at work in a few days. One soldier lost a leg in the attack. Brannan is temporarily assigned as a senior policy advisor to the Ministry of the Interior in Iraq.

"Andrew's courageous actions are an inspiration to everyone at RAND," said RAND President and CEO James A. Thomson. "We are humbled by his bravery and thankful for his ongoing work to help the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi people."

As Bremer presented the award to Rathmell, he said "valor at risk of your own life requires strength of purpose sufficient to overcome the love of life, the fear of death. Andrew Rathmell is not a professional warrior, but he displayed the courage and coolness under fire to which all warriors aspire."

The Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor was created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is given to citizens who perform an act of heroism or sacrifice, with voluntary risk of personal safety in the face of danger. Rathmell is the first person to be so honored for actions taken since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

An expert in international security issues, Rathmell is research leader in RAND Europe where he works on international security and counter-terrorism and Middle East issues.

"I went to Iraq because I felt I needed to go, because this was the most important foreign policy issue for the U.K. and the U.S. and for the future of the Middle East," Rathmell said. "I felt I could make a difference."

Rathmell, who holds degrees from King's College in London and Balliol College at Oxford University, joined RAND Europe in Sept. 2001.


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