In the United States military, few awards outshine the Navy Cross. Second only
to the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross is awarded to those in the Navy or Marines who
display extraordinary bravery in the face of danger.
United States Marine Captain Brian Chontosh '00 (mechanical engineering technology) joined the ranks of Navy Cross recipients May 6 in a ceremony honoring him for his actions in Iraq in March 2003.
His story is the stuff of legend.
As Chontosh's platoon traveled on Highway 1 toward Baghdad, an Iraqi position parallel to the
road began to rain machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades on his convoy. Chontosh ordered his
driver to charge their Humvee directly toward the enemy position, allowing the gunner atop the vehicle
to attack the enemy emplacement, silencing the Iraqi machine-gun.
The driver rammed the Humvee directly into the enemy trench as Chontosh and the others leapt from the vehicle. Chontosh fired his M-16 rifle until his ammo was depleted. He then drew his 9 mm pistol and fired until he was out of bullets. He picked up a discarded AK-47 from the trench and continued fighting. His comrades fighting beside him passed him a rocket-propelled grenade launcher taken from the Iraqis, which he used to dispatch another enemy position. Finally, he retrieved another Iraqi AK-47 and fought until all his ammo was spent, saving the convoy and his fellow Marines.
"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 in a Marine report.
Doing his job earned him his well-deserved decoration.
A true tiger who still wears his now-threadbare RIT sweatshirt, Chontosh recalls fond memories as a member of the campus community.
"It was different to be a part of a civilian community. I had a great time, and had some awesome
instructors," says Chontosh. "I took away a lot of the intangibles of higher education – problem-solving
skills, determination, and teamwork abilities."
Louis Gennaro, an emeritus professor retired Army officer, recalls Chontosh as
an RIT student.
"Brian was a Marine sergeant, and had been chosen for this academic honor by a very selective, rigorous and competitive process. From my own military experience I was aware that only the most qualified people made the grade," says Gennaro. "It was obvious that he treated his tour of duty at RIT in the same manner as his other duties as a Marine. He had a clear objective and nothing would stand in his way.
"Brian's conduct in combat comes to no surprise to anyone who knows him," says Gennaro. "I expect that we have not seen the end of his accomplishments in the military and I anticipate a long and distinguished career in the service of his country."
The University Magazine, Fall 2004