Hero Marine Leaves the Corps – a Legend in His time

By Faye Higbee

Staff Sgt Cliff Wooldridge transitioned out of the United States Marine Corps on Tuesday, August 30, after 9 years. During his career, he had the distinction of receiving the Navy Cross in 2012 for his actions in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, and becoming Marine of the Year in 2013. He’s very nearly a legend in his time.

Hand to hand combat is still important – he proved it

Even in this age of drone strikes and computer technology, standard hand to hand combat is highly important. Especially to warfighters like Marines. And Sgt Wooldridge is a case in point.

Wooldridge’s 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines (Weapons Company) was assigned to clear a settlement in the Helmand River Valley, not far from Musa Qala.  While they knew it would be a major fight,they described is as running into a “hornet’s nest.” There were just 125 Marines against up to 250 tough Taliban fighters at a Taliban compound.

After being attacked constantly, the roadside bombs destroying vehicles, the men were tired, some were injured…but they didn’t let that stop them.

SSgt Wooldridge’s action

musa qala

US Marines alongside ANA near Musa Qala- USMC photo

USA Today reported,

Wooldridge moved his team to another spot for a different view on the Taliban compound.

Just then he heard voices that sounded like men arguing behind a nearby wall. He peeked around the corner and was face to face with four insurgents armed with machine guns, assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Wooldridge shot two of them before they could react. He killed a third as the man was trying to escape. Out of ammunition, he tried to bluff the last insurgent by gesturing at him to drop his weapon.

The insurgent raised his gun and pointing it at Wooldridge, who was 10 feet away. Wooldridge ducked behind the mud wall to reload. Before he could put a fresh drum in his light machine gun, a barrel poked around the corner of the wall.

Wooldridge dropped his own weapon and grabbed the barrel of the machine gun. He slammed the insurgent against a wall and both men fell to the ground. Wooldridge rolled on top of the insurgent and began pummeling him.

The insurgent reached for a grenade attached to the Marine’s protective vest. If he pulled the pin, both men would die.

Wooldridge broke away and got to his feet, grabbing the insurgent’s machine gun at the same time. He aimed it at the insurgent and squeezed the trigger. It didn’t work.

With the stock of the weapon, he beat the Taliban fighter to death.

“I think I just killed a guy with my hands.” Sgt Wooldridge to his platoon commander

For his actions that day in 2010, Wooldridge received the Navy Cross in 2012, an award second only to the  Medal of Honor.

After returning from the Afghanistan deployment, he became an instructor with the Marine Corps Security Force Training Company’s Close Quarter Battle School.

Leaving USMC behind

It is THAT badass Marine who left the Corps on Tuesday after 9 years of service. When he joined the Corps, he told the recruiter he wanted to be “the guy who kicked in doors.”  He did far more than that.

“I enjoyed my time in the Marine Corps. It’s had a huge impact on my life. I’m going to miss the men I’ve served with and miss being in the fight with them…It made me a man and I am forever grateful for the men who mentored me and led by example.” Cliff Wooldridge to the Marine Corps Times 

Semper Fi and best wishes on your new life, SSGT.

Sgt. Clifford Wooldridge, combat weapons instructor, Marine Corps Security Forces Regiment, Chesapeake, Va., stands at attention after receiving the Navy Cross Medal, May 18, at Lance Cpl Torrey L. Gray Field. He earned the medal for combat actions in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, in 2010.

Sgt Cliff Wooldridge in 2012 when he received the Navy Cross. Photo by Cpl Sarah Anderson,