UNSUNG HEROES: The Navy Corpsman Who Killed The Shooter In An Afghan Insider Attack

Unsung Heroes
Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandro Salabarria, a corpsman with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, is presented the Silver Star Medal during a ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Feb. 5, 2016.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lia Gamero

When an Afghan commando turned on his American and Italian allies, Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandro Salabarria, a hospital corpsman, leapt into action, treating his wounded comrades and killing their attacker, Marine Corps Times reports.


On Sept. 15, 2014, in Herat province, Afghanistan, Salabarria and his team members with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion were waiting for inbound CH-47 Chinooks to take them out on a pre-dawn mission when all hell broke loose.

One of the Afghan special operations commandos attached to their unit turned his M4 and M203 grenade launcher on his allies, launching a 40mm explosive round, followed by bursts of fire, into the closely grouped troops, sowing chaos and disorder among them.

Normally Salabarria was assigned to the main element, which would have put him directly in the kill zone, but this time his position was further back.

Related: UNSUNG HEROES: The Corpsman who sprinted into gunfire to save 5 Marines »

“I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Salabarria told Marine Corps Times, adding the initial burst of fire caught everyone off guard. “At first we were stunned; we weren’t outside the wire. … It took a couple seconds to realize what was going on.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a mistake.

Hearing screaming, followed by a muzzle flash, Salabarria began piecing together what was happening. Not wanting to risk a shot for fear of hitting the wrong person, he began assessing the situation, seeking out the wounded.

When he learned that the senior medic had been hit, Salabarria dashed 100 yards to the kill zone and began treating his fellow corpsman who was wounded.

Just then, he noticed the shooter closing in on him,

“He wasn’t running, he was walking real slow,” Salabarria said. “The dude’s shooting at me, at my patient.”

Reacting instantly, Salabarria threw himself between his patient and the attacker, while simultaneously raising his M4 and putting several rounds into the rogue commando. Once he confirmed the gunman was down, Salabarria returned to treating the injured.

Shortly after, a combat lifesaver-trained Marine arrived to help Salabarria treat the wounded, as the incoming CH-47s — now rerouted and tasked for casualty evacuation — made their way to the landing zone, which had to be cleared first.

Salabarria stayed with the injured, treating them on the flight until they arrived at the closest medical facility. Tragically, one of the Marines, Sgt. Charles Strong, succumbed to his wounds.

For his heroism under fire, Salabarria was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest medal for valor, on Feb. 5 aboard Marine Corps Base Lejeune, North Carolina.

“(This medal) is more for Capt. Shaw and Sgt. Strong than anything,” said Salabarria at the ceremony, referring to Stanford Shaw, one of the seven special operations Marines lost in a March 2015 helicopter crash. “It’s all for them.”

CAMP PENDLETON — The military prosecution of a Coast Guardsman accused of murder began Wednesday with a preliminary hearing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Seaman Ethan W. Tucker, 21, was arrested August 28 after a seven-month Coast Guard investigation into the January death of Seaman Ethan Kelch, 19, who served on the same ship as Tucker— the Kodiak, Alaska-based high endurance cutter Douglas Munro.

Read More Show Less

ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and "crush the heads of terrorists" if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area were not fully implemented.

Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a "safe zone" Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.

Read More Show Less

President Trump stoked confusion Friday by declaring the U.S. has "secured the Oil" in the Middle East amid continued fallout from the Turkish invasion of northern Syria that he enabled by pulling American troops out of the region.

It wasn't immediately clear what the president was talking about, as there were no publicly known developments in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East relating to oil. White House aides did not return requests for comment.

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. State Department investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has found no evidence of deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees.

The investigation, the results of which were released on Friday by Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley's office, centered on whether Clinton, who served as the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013, jeopardized classified information by using a private email server rather than a government one.

Read More Show Less

BYESVILLE — A Meadowbrook High School student removed from class last Friday for being intoxicated is now facing a felony charge after allegedly threatening to shoot people if the previous incident harmed his chances to join a branch of the United States military.

Gabriel D. Blackledge, 18, of Cambridge, is facing one count of making terrorist threats, a third-degree felony, filed by the Guernsey County Sheriff's Office on Thursday. Blackledge remained incarcerated in the county jail on a $250,000 bond with no 10 percent allowed, according to the sheriff's office's website.

Read More Show Less