IRAQ: Marine major was recognized for setting a trap that snared enemy combatants. By Megan Bagdonas STAFF WRITER He knew it was risky keeping company headquarters in the same vacant building two days in a row, enticing the Sunni insurgents to attack it – which they did. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.But if Maj. Kevin Hutchinson’s plan worked, the mortar team trailing them for weeks throughout the Anbar province of Iraq would be destroyed – which it was. “It’s a thinking man’s game and both sides are very sneaky and resourceful,” said the 36-year-old Rolling Hills native. The Marine Corps major’s actions on Jan30, 2005, facilitated the death of four enemy combatants, the capture of six others and, on Friday, earned the one-time California surfer a Bronze Star Medal, the fourth-highest combat award in the U.S. armed forces. Hutchinson’s mission in Iraq was to command a company of about 80 men and search out, detain, capture or kill the enemy. In the villages south of Fallujah, Bravo Company Second Reconnaissance Battalion occupied buildings – some vacant, others not – or took over people’s houses to set up command centers for directing patrols of the area. “We would talk to a lot of people. The most important thing is gathering information,” Hutchinson said about the first thing his troops did when arriving at a new location. “We listen to their desires and complaints. Find out who’s loyal to who and begin peeling the onion. We tried to understand the problem before trying to solve it.” Hutchinson said while they tried to get a grasp on the culture, people, terrain and language barriers, insurgents attacked daily. “It was nerve-racking, but fortunately they’re not very competent fighters,” he said. “But there was this one mortar team chasing us who were military trained. We’d been hunting them just as they’d been hunting us for quite some time.” To evade the steady attacks, Hutchinson would wake his company at 2 a.m. and stealthily move 500 meters to another part of a building or park their Hummers at another location. But the mortar bombs kept coming. “For months, everywhere we went they would harass us with their mortar,” Hutchinson said. “They bombed us all the time, everywhere we went. If we stopped for more than 24 hours, they would start launching mortar.” After weeks of waking up to streets littered with craters and exploded vehicles, Hutchinson began to get a feel for his enemy to the point where he felt confident he could anticipate their next move. So he set a trap. “It’s like a complicated chess game,” Hutchinson said. Studying clues from the craters left by mortar blasts and knowing his enemy was too lazy to carry the launching equipment far from the road, Hutchinson predicted where they would strike from next, planted a covert team inside an occupied house with a clear shot of the target, and waited. “The same time the next day four Iraqis pulled up in a black BMW sedan – it’s weird, they always have really nice cars – and pulled out a mortar tube and set it up and launched one bomb,” Hutchinson said. The Marines fired and instantly killed one Iraqi. The other three insurgents ran into an irrigation canal. Hutchinson ordered his quick-response force into the canal as helicopters and more American troops closed in. The first Marine to enter the canal was shot and killed at point-blank range. The three Iraqis didn’t make it out of the canal alive either. “When a Marine dies, it’s very heavy. We were satisfied we killed that team, but it was by no means a joyous day,” Hutchinson said. On Thursday night, Hutchinson flew from Virgina, where he studies advanced war fighting at a Marine Corps college, to San Diego for the medal ceremony. Family and friends gathered Friday to see the one-time surfer boy from the Palos Verdes Peninsula get his recognition for leading men in war. “I’m overwhelmed with pride,” said his mother, Nancy Black of Rolling Hills. “He was just this casual surfer boy. I’m in awe of what he accomplished.” With tears in her eyes, Hutchinson’s mother talked about living in constant fear while her son was at war. “I always had family support, but does anyone really know what a mother goes through?” she said. “Whenever I’d drive home I wondered whether there’d be a Marine waiting at the front door. In the middle of the night I worried about a phone call – not from Kevin – but from the Marine detail. I was scared all the time.” Receiving the medal, Hutchinson said it was like his whole company was being honored. “I’ve been a Marine for 12 years. I never thought I would stay in this long, but it’s the quality of men I serve with and the brotherhood that makes me stay in the Marine Corps and serve my country,” he said. “I know it sounds sappy but that’s who I am.” email@example.comWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!