The U.S. Army Special Forces team leader upon whom the Pentagon has heaped much of the blame for a deadly ambush in Niger last October may also be awarded a Silver Star for his heroic actions that day, the New York Times reported on Aug. 23.
- Army commanders have recommended that Capt. Michael Perozeni receive the military’s third-highest valor award for the gallantry he displayed when his 11-man team came under attack by dozens of Islamist militants on Oct. 4, 2017, according to an internal Special Operations Command report attained by the Times.
- The ambush occurred outside the village of Tongo Tongo, where Operational Detachment Alpha Team 3212 had stopped for water following a kill-or-capture mission that turned up nothing. The team was accompanied by 30 Nigerian soldiers.
- Four members of ODA 3212 were killed in the ensuing firefight, which lasted hours and was captured in helmet camera footage that later appeared in an ISIS propaganda video. Perozeni was shot in the attack but survived
- Two of the soldiers killed in the battle are being considered for the Distinguished Service Cross and the other two have been recommended for the Silver Star, according to the Times.
- Perozeni’s Silver Star nomination sharply contrasts with the summary of a U.S. Africa Command report released to the public in May that implied Perozeni and another junior officer had imperiled ODA 3212 by mischaracterizing its mission that day in a planning document. The summary stated that the officers described the mission as a trip to meet tribal elders rather than a counterterrorism mission, which would have required higher approval and a much larger contingent of troops.
- The planning document “contributed to a general lack of situational awareness and command oversight at every echelon,” according to the AFRICOM investigation. However, as the Times noted, the summary did not mention the fact that “Perozeni had pushed back against the part of the mission that would eventually turn deadly,” nor did it “directly any blame to senior leadership.”
- A Defense Department official told the Times that “it was doubtful that Captain Perozeni could be considered for the honor if his misleading mission plan had been a significant error, or had led to the deadly attack.”