On Aug. 22, 2007, Staff Sgt. Erich R. Phillips was asleep in a remote outpost in the mountains of Afghanistan when the Taliban launched an assault on his compound. Phillips quickly organized his men to repel the attackers, and protected his outpost from the attacking force much larger and better equipped than his own.
During a battle in Afghanistan that would last more than 17 hours, Sgt. 1st Class Brendan O’Connor crawled through a ditch to reach two wounded men, as machine gun fire from Taliban fighters cut the grass all around him. Taking control after the team leader was killed, O’Connor coordinated the safe extraction of his team by the use of infrared light beams from friendly aircraft and night-vision goggles.