Living up to the legacy

Craig native promoted ahead of time to colonel


May 19, 2004. Western Iraq.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. John Adams' mission was simple. Locate and assault a heavily guarded enemy base defended by 50 to 75 foreign fighters, Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaida leaders.

Adams, a senior officer, helped lead the raid. His team came in hard and fast, overwhelming the larger force with blinding efficiency. Adams killed two of them in close quarters.

His superiors raved about his leadership in the raid.

They also recommended him for the Bronze Star Medal, his second.

But, military officials weren't the only ones to take notice of the action.

It gained worldwide media coverage. Iraqi officials said the raid was of a wedding party. They said women and children were killed. They said troops executed innocent people.

What was once a proud military achievement for Adams suddenly became an event that immersed him in a difficult period.

He was investigated for a war crime.

Making his mark

Adams, a Craig native, entered the Armed Forces in 1986 with a last name etched into the annals of military legacy. Twenty years later, he's in the midst of a career that finds him making his own mark.

Adams, a 1981 graduate of Moffat County High School, was promoted to colonel in June. His promotion comes two years ahead of schedule.

"It has been a surprise, and I feel very honored," said Adams, who was in Colorado on Wednesday for a conference in Denver.

He is the assistant chief of staff and an intelligence officer for the First Marine Aircraft Wing.

Adams, his wife and four children reside at Camp Butler, in Okinawa, Japan.

His father, the late Major William Adams, was an Army helicopter pilot who was killed in action during the Vietnam War. The elder Adams was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military achievement of all, for successfully evacuating wounded soldiers through a blaze of enemy gunfire.

As a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq, his son John has also faced danger. And, like his father, he's displayed bravery and exemplary skills in the face of it, his superiors have said.

Legitimate raid

An investigation into the controversial May 2004 raid concluded that the operation was legitimate and countered the enemy's claims that it was a wedding party.

"Although the bad guys said it was a wedding party, it was not," Adams said.

Of a survivor's claim that soldiers executed people, he said, "It's ridiculous. The Marine Corps doesn't do that. It's not going to happen, and to think it would is just ridiculous."

Adams' superiors cited him for his leadership of the operation.

"The boldness and complete tactical success of the raid had such a profound impact on the insurgency that the smugglers of foreign fighters significantly altered their routes to avoid this area in the following months," the summary of action says.

Today, a heavily decorated Adams said he's not trying to live up to his father's legacy.

"I try not to compete in any way with my dad," he said. "That's one reason I joined the Marine Corps and not the Army."

He said he supports America's continued involvement in helping to rebuild Iraq, a country that was once ruled by a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and an army through intimidation and murder.

"We've come a long way," Adams said. "We are empowering Iraq and as (the Iraqi people) become stronger and stronger, they will be able to defend themselves."

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