CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- A 2nd Intelligence Battalion Marine has earned the 2002 Special Award for Counter Intelligence Support to Force Protection, according to a Counter Intelligence Field Activity memorandum dated March 26.
Gunnery Sgt. Paul L. Contreras, counter intelligence specialist, 2nd Counter Intelligence/Human Intelligence Company, is scheduled to receive the Department of Defense award during a ceremony at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, April 29 for his performance while deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.
The award is one of nine counter intelligence awards given by the DoD annually to military and/or civil service personnel. Contreras' command nominated him for the award.
"(Contreras) is one of the most outstanding Marines I've encountered in my 10 years of service," said 2nd Lt. William G. Skelton, platoon commander, 2nd Counter Intelligence/Human Intelligence Company. "With an excellent record like his, he was the obvious choice for the award. It came as no surprise to his peers that he'd be recognized by the Department of Defense."
Contreras began his Marine Corps career in 1992 and later became a supply warehouseman. His dedication to being the best Marine he could began there, but it didn't take long for him to realize he wanted to do something that would have more of an affect on other Marines' lives, he said. In 1998 he made a lateral move into counter intelligence and has since achieved his goal.
"The best thing about being in counter intelligence is that there is nothing and no one we can't support," said Contreras. "It is a good feeling to know what I do for a living makes a difference in whether Marines come home safely."
Contreras worked with a team of five other Marines in Afghanistan from August to December 2002. The team collected information and provided it to commanders, giving them the ability to maintain an appropriate level of force protection, said Contreras. His team and the service members there with Combined Joint Task Force-180 encountered threats daily, but they stood their ground and accomplished the mission.
"It's impossible to prove what my team did prevented something from happening, but I'm pretty confident that if we weren't there doing our job, something would have happened," said the Denver native.
What Contreras did in Afghanistan was enough to earn him recognition, but he said he could not have done it alone.
"I feel very humbled to have been selected for the award, but awards usually originate from the people you work with," said Contreras. "I benefited from being surrounded by a really good team of Marines that worked hard to help me be successful in Afghanistan."