Alaska paratrooper awarded for Afghanistan valor
April 13, 2011
- Five-hour fire fight
- Team fends off 200 enemy fighters
- Credits unit training and discipline
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Sgt. 1st Class Kyle T. Silvernale, of 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment based here was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor April 1 for actions in Afghanistan in 2008.
During a massive coordinated enemy attack, then-Staff Sgt. Silvernale was called to respond as a part of the quick reaction force, or QRF. An estimated 200 enemy combatants were assaulting Vehicle Patrol Base Wanat with rocket and grenade fire.
Silvernale and his men had just returned from a separate mission, but quickly moved to help repel the attack.
Within 40 minutes of receiving the word to assist, Silvernale and his men were in position. Upon arriving, Silvernale asked where the enemy was coming from.
"Everywhere," a team leader in 2nd Platoon told him.
During the course of the five-hour firefight, Silvernale and his men wedged themselves between the enemy and their planned escape route, effectively keeping the enemy in the fight longer than they had planned.
"Our guys were already battle hardened from the deployment at this point," Silvernale said. "It was superior training and discipline that allowed us to overcome a larger enemy force that day."
From there Silvernale dismounted the vehicles and his element began making its way through enemy locations in a nearby bazaar and clearing it of enemy forces.
At one point Silvernale was knocked to the ground when a rocket-propelled grenade narrowly missed his head, exploded nearby and sprayed him and his Soldiers with its fragments.
"An enemy jumped out from behind a vehicle less than 75 meters from my location and fired an RPG at us," he said. "The blast knocked me down and kind of stunned me for a bit. I reloaded, got my bearings and I engaged him with a fully loaded weapon."
After the near miss with the RPG, Silvernale and his element began clearing enemy fighters inside buildings and other structures. At one point Silvernale and his men were firing almost point blank into enemy positions.
Despite the dangers of moving dismounted and without regard for his own wounds sustained in combat, Silvernale and his team continued another 20 meters and established 1st Platoon's northern limit. Silverdale was down to the last of his ammunition.
"I found an axe on the first foothold of a two story hotel we managed to occupy," he said. "I used it to breech into rooms and locks as we cleared the building and I had every intention of using against the enemy it if I had to."
By the end of the fire fight, Silvernale had cleared a large portion of the enemy and was establishing targets for his unit's Mark-19 automatic grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons. He used smoke and fragmentation grenades to provide cover and concealment.
Several times he was exposed to direct enemy fire. However, his actions stopped the enemy from flanking the 1st platoon element and MEDEVAC operations were able to flow smoothly.
"You gave a lot back to the unit that day," said Lt. Col. Patrick Ellis, commander of the 1-501st, told Silvernale during the ceremony. "The thing about an award for valor is this is all about you. You earned this."
An excerpt from the award citation read aloud during the ceremony highlighted the significance of Silvernale's actions:
"His bold maneuvers cleared the bazaar, cut off the enemy's infiltration route, and forced their eventual withdrawal. Without his selfless, aggressive, and determined leadership the enemy would not have been repelled from the battlefield."