FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Dec. 12, 2008) - In one of the largest awards ceremonies since the Vietnam era, the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) awarded 19 Silver Star Medals, two Bronze Star Medals for Valor, two Army Commendation Medals for Valor and four Purple Hearts here at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Dec. 12.
Col. Gus Benton II, the commander of the 3rd SFG(A), said the men of the 3rd SFG(A) have distinguished themselves by taking the fight to the enemy and simply "doing what had to be done."
"It is my distinct honor and privilege to celebrate the awarding of these medals to our intrepid warriors," Benton said. "History will record and we will long remember their sacrifices."
Addressing the standing-room-only crowd, Benton said that earlier this week the group had the honor of awarding 43 Bronze Stars for Valor and 39 Army Commendation Medals for Valor.
Prior to the awarding of the medals, vignettes narrated by members of the group explained the daring feats of the Special Forces Soldiers. Each vignette told the story of the battles that occurred and the actions performed by each man receiving a medal. As each group of Soldiers received their medals, they were treated to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the audience.
"As we have listened to these incredible tales, I am truly at a loss for words to do justice to what we have heard here," said Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, who presented the awards to the Soldiers. "Where do we get such men' There is no finer fighting man on the face of the earth than the American Soldier. And there is no finer American Soldier than our Green Berets."
Mulholland said that many people wouldn't believe the courage displayed by the award recipients.
"If you saw what you heard today in a movie, you would shake your head and say, 'that didn't happen,'" Mulholland said. "But it does, every day."
He explained that the majority of the firefights highlighted in the vignettes took place within ranges that would fit inside the auditorium.
"You can't imagine the intensity and the stress these men endured for hours and days on end," he said.
Prior to taking command of USASOC, Mulholland was the commander of Special Operations Command Central, the command which has control over the forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"As the commander responsible for the area, as the reports rolled in, I would shake my head in disbelief," he said, speaking of the courage and persistence of the SF Soldiers.
"Alone and unafraid, working with their counterparts, they took on a tenacious and dedicated enemy in his homeland, in his own backyard. Imagine the Taliban commander thinking, 'What the hell do I have to do to defeat these guys''"
Mulholland said that he was "incredibly humbled" to stand and address the actions of his men, because their actions "speak volumes beyond what I can say."
"Day-in and day-out, they are the unsung heroes, seeking no recognition," he continued. "If you asked them, I'm sure they would say: `the other guy did it.'"
Honored during the ceremony with Silver Star Medals were:
The members assigned to ODA 3336 for valorous actions undertaken in Afghanistan on April 6, 2008:
- Capt. Kyle Walton (Carmel, Ind.)
- Master Sgt. Scott Ford (Athens, Ohio)
- Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr (Rock Island, Ill.)
- Staff Sgt. Seth Howard (Kenne, N.H.)
- Staff Sgt. Luis Morales (Fredricksburg, Va.)
- Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer (Pullman, Wash.)
- Staff Sgt. John Walding (Groesbeck, Texas)
- Sgt. David Sanders (Huntsville, Ala.)
- Sgt. Matthew Williams (Casper, Wyo.)
- Spc. Michael Carter (Smithville, Texas)
The members assigned to ODA 3312 and 3214 for valorous actions undertaken in Afghanistan on Nov. 2, 2007:
- Master Sgt. Frederick Davenport (San Diego, Calif.)
- Staff Sgt. Robert Hammons (Hunstville, Ala.)
- Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Allison (Livonia, N.Y.)
- Sgt. 1st Class Paul Fiesel (La Porte, Texas)
For actions undertaken in Afghanistan on Nov. 10, 2007:
- Sgt. Gabriel Reynolds (Oswego, Ore.)
For actions undertaken in Iraq on July 27, 2007:
- Capt. Kent Solheim (Oregon City, Ore.)
For actions undertaken in Afghanistan on Aug. 26-Sept. 13, 2006:
- Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Konrad (Winchester, Tenn.)
For actions undertaken in Afghanistan Aug. 7-9, 2005:
- Capt. Brandon Griffin (Athens, Ga.)
For actions undertaken in Afghanistan July 25, 2005:
- Sgt. 1st Class Larry Hawks (Bowling Green, Ky.)
The Silver Star Medal is awarded in recognition of a valorous act performed during combat operations while under direct fire from enemy forces. It may also denote an accomplishment of a heroic nature in direct support of operations against an enemy force.
(Janice Burton serves with the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School Public Affairs Office.)