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Exclusive: 2 Marines Received Valor Awards For Secret Gunfight Against Al Qaeda In North Africa
Two members of Marine Special Operations Command received valor awards for their heroism during a gun battle last year with al Qaeda militants in Northern Africa, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command confirmed on Wednesday.
While on a three-day operation to train, advise, and assist partner forces in the unnamed country — which the command withheld due to "classification considerations, force protection, and diplomatic sensitivities" — the Marine Special Operations Team on February 28, 2017, became engaged in a "fierce fight against members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," according to one of the award citations for the unnamed Marines, who are often referred to as "Raiders."
The two award citations for the Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with "V" distinguishing device for valor) were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Task & Purpose. Despite redactions of names and the specific Marine Raider team involved, the citations provide a glimpse of a battle between Americans and militants on the African continent that had not previously been made public.
While the specific country where the battle took place remains unknown, Northern Africa consists of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara, according to the United Nations.
Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho told Task & Purpose in a statement that partner forces initially engaged and killed one al Qaeda fighter with small arms fire before calling for helicopter support. Militants then attempted to flank the Marines and partner forces from the rear, leading the Marines to "return fire in self-defense."
According to one citation, the Raiders' communications chief and assistant element leader — typically a sergeant or above — "provided critical communications relay and ensured proper positioning of partner force elements." The citation went on to say the Marine, while under accurate enemy fire, provided immediate trauma care for a fellow Raider who was wounded and helped evacuate him into a partner force helicopter that was hovering six feet above his position.
The second citation for an element member on the team — typically a sergeant or below — captures how the battle raged from the helicopter overhead. While onboard the partner force helicopter, the Marine fired at militants below, coordinated close air support, and directed the gunners and pilots on board the aircraft.
The militants responded with accurate fire, however, and a partner force soldier behind the helicopter's M60 machine gun was shot twice in the foot, after which "[the Marine Raider] took control of the M60 and continued to suppress the enemy while treating the wounded gunner," the citation said.
"He then accompanied the helicopter during the casualty evacuation of the Marine Raider and a second casualty later in the day, and conducted two re-supply deliveries all under enemy fire," the citation added.
The partner force ultimately secured the site of the battle and "assessed two enemies were killed," Reho told Task & Purpose. The wounded Marine was evacuated and has since made a full recovery.
The gun battle between Marines and al Qaeda militants took place seven months before a deadly battle between ISIS militants and U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers who were advising partner forces in Niger. The October 4, 2017 ambush resulted in the deaths of four American service members and led the Pentagon to conduct a major review of U.S special operations missions in Africa.
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The police officer killed during a traffic stop in Newport News on Thursday night was a well-liked young officer who just graduated from the police academy seven months ago, Police Chief Steve Drew said at a somber news conference Friday.