A group of Green Berets has received valor awards for their heroic actions during a grueling eight-hour firefight against Taliban forces in Afghanistan last year, the Army announced last week.
In August 2019, an operational detachment made up of Army Special Forces soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) “stumbled upon” a conference between an “elite Taliban force” and their advisors in a small village in Afghanistan's Faryab province, an Army official told Task & Purpose.
The ensuing eight-hour firefight found the soldiers in such close proximity to the Taliban force that “they could hear the enemy speaking, as well as the sound of the spoons being released from their grenades,” said Maj. Andrew Harshbarger, a spokesman for 7th Group.
Three Americans and one Afghan commando were wounded in the firefight, prompting the Green Berets to call in a medevac chopper that landed under fire “in a courtyard no larger than the size of half of a football field and within inches of the ODA themselves” to secure the wounded, Harshbarger said.
“The ODA, who had lost contact with their supporting vehicles after the Taliban shot one of their radios, then fought their way out of the village and moved over a mile, by foot, and under fire, to safety,” the official said.
Two Green Berets — Master Sgt. Luis Felipe Deleon-Figueroa and Master Sgt. Jose Juan Gonzalez — lost their lives in the battle.
For their heroic actions during the firefight, as well as their six-month deployment to Afghanistan, members of the 1-7 received two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars with “V” devices, three Army Commendation Medals with “V” devices, and four Purple Hearts.
Two of the Bronze Stars were awarded posthumously to Gonzales and Deleon-Figueroa, while a third Silver Star was presented to an Air Force pararescueman for his role in rendering aid during the firefight with the Taliban.
“With disregard for their own safety, the Green Berets exposed themselves to enemy fire to thwart the attack, maintain command and control, and recover their wounded teammates,” read a summary of the Silver Star citations provided to Task & Purpose.
The awards were presented to members of the 1-7 during an Aug. 21 ceremony at the Rock Garden Memorial at the 7th SFG (A) compound at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
According to officials, the 1-7 was also awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for applying pressure on the Taliban to “set the stage” for a peace settlement the militant group signed with the United States in February.
“The actions of the warriors we are recognizing today speak volumes about them as individuals. They also clearly reflect the families and communities that shaped these men,” said Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command. “Even if they cannot be here physically – thank you for what your families do to support you every day.”