FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Six Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, received awards for their heroic actions, during an awards ceremony June 11.
During the ceremony 1st Lt. Cooper L. Lemons, Sgt. 1st Class John Ballenger, Staff Sgt. Timme L. Jones, and Spc. Benaiah O. Wiedenhoft were awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Combat device and Spcs. Jacob S. Shontz and Joseph Smith were awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor device.
The six Soldiers, who were assigned to Alpha "Arrowhead" Company, 1st Bn., 12th Inf. Reg., played a crucial role in the events that occurred on Oct. 18, 2018 in Kandahar City, according to Col. Dave Zinn, then commander of 2nd IBCT and deputy commander for Train, Advise and Assist Command-South (TAAC-South) during the incident.
"On October 18th, Arrowhead was tasked with protecting senior U.S. officials who were meeting with high-level Afghan officials at the provincial governor's compound in the center of Kandahar City to discuss upcoming national elections," said Zinn.
Aside from the six 'Arrowhead' Soldiers, four other Soldiers received the award but were not present at the ceremony. The Soldiers were Lt. Col. Troy Mills, 1st Bn., 12th Inf. Reg. commander at the time of incident, Command Sgt. Maj. Anton Hillig, command sergeant major for 2IBCT at the time of the incident, Capt. Daniel Stevens, commander for A Company, 1st Bn., 12th Inf. Reg. at the time of the incident, and 1st Lt. Blake Bill, executive officer for A Company, 1st Bn., 12th Inf. Reg., at the time of the incident.
On the day of the incident, the Soldiers of Alpha Company drove a convoy into the center of Kandahar City and pulled security for hours as U.S. and Afghan officials discussed future plans.
"I remember myself and my platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Ballenger, pulling security on the tower across from the (helicopter landing zone) and seeing everyone coming out of the building," said Spc. Joseph Smith, a combat medic. "Then all of a sudden I heard a shot pop and all we could see were people trying to take cover."
On that day a Taliban member had infiltrated Afghan security forces and conducted an insider attack.
While under fire, the Soldiers sprang into action.
"These Soldiers, acting as guardian angels, remained standing and returned fire to eliminate the threat," said Zinn. "They secured the chaotic scene and rendered medical aid to the wounded, organized the evacuation of senior U.S. and Afghan officials, called in a MedEvac helicopter, and prepared their convoy for movement out of the city."
According to Smith, who treated both U.S. and Afghan members, he had to rely on his skills and ability to stay calm.
"Instincts kind of just took over, it felt surreal," said Smith. "I took a deep breath and started treating and prioritizing those around me."
Because of the actions of the Soldiers, all casualties were evacuated to the NATO Role III medical facility to receive further medical aid.
"My deepest admiration will always be with the Arrowhead Soldiers who selflessly and courageously demonstrated their character, resiliency and their expertise under fire at the governor's palace on that day," said Zinn.