Maj. Mark E. Mitchell today became the first soldier since Vietnam to receive the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest military award for valor.
Mitchell, a Special Forces officer, was awarded for leading a team of 16 American and British soldiers into combat operations against about 500 Taliban and al Qaeda-trained fighters who had taken over a fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, where they had been imprisoned. Mitchell's actions freed an American held in Qala-I-Jangi Fortress by the rioting prisoners and ensured the posthumous repatriation of another American.
Mitchell's citation states that from Nov. 25-28, 2001, "his unparalleled courage under fire, decisive leadership and personal sacrifice were directly responsible for the success of the rescue operation and were further instrumental in ensuring the city of Mazar-e-Sharif did not fall back in the hands of the Taliban."
The Distinguished Service Cross was presented to Mitchell by Gen. Bryan "Doug" Brown, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, in a ceremony this afternoon at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
"It is a tremendous honor," Mitchell said. "But I don't consider myself a hero. I am not personally convinced that my actions warranted more than a pat on the back. Wearing the Special Forces foreign service combat patch on my shoulder and serving with the finest soldiers in the world-is enough. I was just doing my job and our mission was accomplished."
Mitchell was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during his deployment to Afghanistan. He now is assigned to Special Operations Command Central, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.