Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for December 21, 2009 - Staff Sgt. Michael Norton

Staff Sergeant Michael Norton

Current Unit: 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
Current Position: Squad Leader
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Benning, Ga.
Hometown: Milford, Mich.
Years of Service: 5

The commitment to one’s fellow Soldiers is part of the Army Strong mentality that guides Soldiers’ daily decisions and actions, especially when in theater. When his unit came under enemy attack during a combat operation in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Michael Norton risked his own life to rescue two of the Soldiers in his unit who were injured by enemy fire. His gallant actions not only saved the lives of his squad members, but his leadership led to the destruction of an enemy headquarters camp.

On Aug. 4, 2009, Norton led his team on a raid to a known heavily armed enemy camp in the mountains of northwestern Afghanistan. However, as the squad approached the camp in Khowst Province on a dismounted patrol, they were ambushed and began receiving heavy fire at close range. Trapped on foot in the valley, Norton and his squad returned fire from their position, but continued to receive enemy fire from all directions.

When two Rangers were injured by rocket-propelled grenades and lay unconscious in the line of fire, Norton risked his own life in order to provide medical care to the Soldiers in his squad. Reentering the kill zone in order to recover his downed Rangers, Norton acted immediately and without hesitation.

“Any Ranger would have done the same thing,” he said. “The Ranger Creed says, ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade.’ There was no moment of thinking about what to do. I had to get my brothers and the most important thing in my mind was how hurt they were.”

Relying on other squad members to continue attempting to suppress the insurgents, Norton began administering medical attention to the Soldiers, crouching on the ground next to them and gently shaking them while repeating their names. After successfully reviving the Soldiers, Norton then led them to cover, using his own body to shield them from enemy fire.

“We receive a lot of great training here at 3rd Ranger Battalion and I was just acting on instinct,” said Norton.

A true team player, Norton chooses to focus on the brave actions of his squad that day, not just his own heroics.

“I’m proud of the actions of my squad, because we continued the mission after that,” he said. “It was just two minutes out of our overall mission.”

In addition to saving the lives of two Rangers, Norton also brought his entire squad out of the enemy onslaught intact. Throughout the two-day assault, the squad was able to disrupt the enemy headquarters and prevent the insurgents from interfering with the then-upcoming Afghani national elections. For his distinctive heroism, risking his life for the call of duty and the lives of his fellow Soldiers, Norton was awarded the Silver Star Medal, which he received in a ceremony last month.

Since joining the Army in June 2004, the NCO has deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Norton returned home from his most recent deployment in September, and currently resides at Fort Benning, Ga., with his wife and his two daughters.

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