Vanguard engineers awarded Bronze Star for valor
September 21, 2013
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Morse, a heavy equipment operator and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Steven Wagner, a combat engineer, and both squad leaders with Company A, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, were awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a Valor device, Sept. 9, in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, for heroism in combat.
The BSM is the fourth highest individual military award. It may be awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone. When awarded for acts of heroism, the medal is awarded with a Valor, or V, device.
Morse, a native of Stockbridge, Ga., who volunteered to also serve as a combat engineer, and Wagner, a Tucson, Ariz., native are responsible for leading dismounted patrols to find and clear improvised explosive devices and other explosive hazards along eastern Afghanistan's Highway 1 and other main supply routes.
Morse' actions on May 20, and Wagner's actions on May 23, were nearly identical. They were both in charge of dismounted troops responsible for clearing a road as they escorted supply convoys between two U.S. bases in northern Wardak. "All of our missions are pretty much the same," said Morse, "but, we have our certain areas throughout the route where we take contact, whether it's IEDs or small arms fire."
"We just happened to walk into a bad situation," he added.
During an attack on May 20, Wagner saved the life of a fellow combat engineer. "He took a round to the shin," Said Wagner. "They continued to fire at us, but I was able to get over to him." Wagner's explanation was almost effortless and nonchalant, as though he was explaining his everyday routine. "I was able to get a tourniquet on and stay with him until the gun trucks pulled up."
Wagner remained calm and reassured the Soldier he was going to be okay, while still providing cover, using his own body as a shield, and returning fire. After approximately eight minutes of sustained gunfire, a vehicle was able to pull in front of their position, and Wagner and the platoon's medics moved the injured Soldier to a covered position, continued first aid, and evacuated the Soldier on a helicopter.
In a separate attack May 23, Morse's actions, saved the life of a heavy equipment operator like himself. One of his Soldiers sustained a gunshot wound to the leg and was unable to get back up. Morse moved to his Soldiers position, still under fire, and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. He placed himself between the enemy and the wounded Soldier, returned fire, and prevented him from going into shock.
"It felt like an eternity," said Morse, remembering waiting for support. A vehicle soon arrived and provided additional cover and suppressive fire, allowing Morse and the platoon's medic to move the injured to a safer place and render further medical aid. Morse continued to keep his Soldier safe until a helicopter arrived to evacuate the injured Soldier.
The two brave leaders epitomize what it means to be a Soldier and a leader in the U.S. Army. They placed the needs and lives of their Soldiers above their own. Without their quick thinking and selfless actions the two injured Soldiers could have died in the line of duty. Despite their modesty Staff Sgt. Joshua Morse and Staff Sgt. Steven Wagner are heroes in every sense of the word.
"I did what I thought any of our guys would have done," said Morse, "Just doing our job."