Green Beret killed in gunfight with Jordanian soldier to posthumously receive Silver Star

Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty was "directly responsible for the survival of another Green Beret."

An Army Special Forces soldier who was shot and killed by a Jordanian soldier while trying to enter a military base will posthumously receive the Silver Star on Wednesday, his birthday.

Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, a 27-year-old soldier assigned to 5th Special Forces Group, was “directly responsible for the survival of another Green Beret” during the attack on Nov. 4, 2016, U.S. Special Operations Command said in a tweet on Wednesday.

That day, as Moriarty and other Special Forces soldiers who were deployed to Jordan on a training mission entered King Faisal Air Base, they came under fire by a Jordanian soldier who was guarding the entrance of the base.

According to an internal investigation released by SOCOM in 2017, Staff Sgts. Kevin McEnroe and Matthew Lewellen were in the second vehicle of the convoy. McEnroe was killed immediately by the gunfire, and Lewellen was mortally wounded.

Within seconds of coming under fire by 1st Sgt. Marik al-Tuwayha, Moriarty and another U.S. soldier in the convoy exited their vehicles and sought cover, attempting to communicate that they were friendly forces. Those efforts proved unsuccessful.

The investigation said that while the other soldier “maneuvered to gain a better position, SSG Moriarty stood and fired his pistol directly at the shooter, who was wearing body armor.”

“After closing in on their position, the shooter shot SSG Moriarty twice mortally wounding him,” the investigation summary says. “SSG Moriarty’s actions enabled the remaining soldier to maneuver and engage the shooter and seriously wound him.”

McEnroe died at the scene of the shooting, while Lewellen and Moriarty were medically evacuated to a local hospital. They both died before they arrived at King Hussein Hospital in Amman.

“Autopsy results show that no amount of medical care could have saved these three soldiers due to the nature of their wounds,” the investigation says.

Al-Tuwayha insisted during his military trial that he believed the base was under attack when the convoy approached, Army Times reported in 2017. He said he “heard a pistol shot coming from the direction of the American convoy,” and returned fire without aiming at anything in particular, with “no intention of killing anyone.”

During his trial, a prosecutor said al-Tuwayha fired 63 bullets from his rifle, according to Army Times. He was ultimately found guilty and sentenced to life in prison with hard labor.

Moriarty’s family is receiving the Silver Star on his behalf on Wednesday in his hometown of Houston, Texas, according to a Houston NBC affiliate, KPRC-TV.

Moriarty graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, according to the Green Beret Foundation; he enlisted in the Army on Sept. 13, 2011, and attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection in May 2012.

In Dec. 2013, Moriarty graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course as a Special Forces weapons sergeant, and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.

His military awards included the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

Featured photo: Army Staff Sgt. James Moriarty.

Haley Britzky

Haley BritzkyHaley Britzky is the Army reporter for Task & Purpose, covering the daily happenings in the Army as well as broader national security issues. Contact the author here.