PROFILES

STAFF SGT. ROY BENAVIDEZ

On the morning of May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces reconnaissance team was inserted by helicopters in a dense jungle west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam, to gather intelligence about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. Shortly after arriving, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted to extract them, but were unable to land due to intense small-arms and anti-aircraft fire.

Staff Sgt. Roy Benavidez was at the forward operating base in Loc Ninh, monitoring the operation by radio when the helicopters returned to off-load wounded crewmembers and to assess aircraft damage. Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small-arms fire to the crippled team.

Prior to reaching the team's position he was wounded in his right leg, face and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents of the dead team leader. When he reached the leader's body, Benavidez was severely wounded by small-arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded and his helicopter crashed.

Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter, distributing water and ammunition to the weary men, and re-instilling in them a will to live and fight.

Facing a rapid buildup of enemy opposition against his beleaguered team, Benavidez mustered his remaining strength, calling in tactical air strikes and directing fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy's fire and so permit another extraction attempt. He was wounded again in his thigh by small-arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. On his second trip with the wounded, he was attacked by an enemy soldier, who clubbed him in the head and arms. After killing the soldier, Benavidez continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the helicopter from an angle that prevented the helicopter door gunner from firing on them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft.