Coronado SEAL awarded the Navy Cross

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http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/military/20031101-9999_2m1seal.html

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Award for heroism in Afghanistan

By Otto Kreisher
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

November 1, 2003

WASHINGTON – A Navy SEAL assigned to the Special Warfare Center in Coronado received the Navy Cross, the nation's second-highest award, this week for heroism during a rescue mission in Afghanistan.

Chief Petty Officer Stephen Bass also was one of three special-operations personnel among six service members honored by a prominent national-security support group, underscoring the unprecedented role special-operations forces played in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

Bass was cited for "extraordinary heroism" during combat operations in northern Afghanistan as part of a U.S. and British special-operations mission to rescue two missing Americans. During the operation, he was "continuously engaged" by small-arms, mortar and rocket-propelled-grenade fire and had to walk through a minefield to reach the Americans, according to a citation honoring Bass.

The award statement said Bass advanced nearly one-quarter of a mile "under constant enemy fire" in an attempt to find one of the Americans. When he ran low on ammunition, the SEAL used weapons from dead enemy forces to continue his mission, which resulted in the recovery of the American.

The Navy Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor for bravery in combat.

Bass was among the first recipients of the "Grateful Nation" award from the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

The organization also honored Maj. George Thiebes for his actions as an Army Special Forces company commander fighting in northern Iraq and Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Lamonica for two special-operations combat deployments to Afghanistan.

The "Grateful Nation" award also went to Army 1st Sgt. John R. Hawley for combat leadership in Afghanistan, Marine Reserve Cpl. Seth Wells for performance under fire in Iraq, and Coast Guard Reserve Chief Petty Officer Paula Jaklitsch for service in New York City during and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

For extraordinary heroism while serving with the British Special Boat Service during combat operations in Northern Afghanistan on 25 and 26 November 2001. Chief Petty Officer Bass deployed to the area as a member of a Joint American and British Special Forces Rescue Team to locate and recover two missing American citizens, one presumed to be seriously injured or dead, after hard-line Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at the Quala-I-Jangi fortress in Mazar-e-Sharif over powered them and gained access to large quantities of arms and ammunition stored at the fortress. Once inside, Chief Petty Officer Bass was engaged continuously by direct small arms fire, indirect mortar fire and rocket propelled grenade fire. He was forced to walk through an active anti-personnel minefield in order to gain entry to the fortress. After establishing the possible location of both American citizens, under heavy fire and without concern for his own personal safety, he made two attempts to rescue the uninjured citizen by crawling toward the fortress interior to reach him. Forced to withdraw due to large volumes of fire falling on his position, he was undeterred. After reporting his efforts to the remaining members of the rescue team, they left and attempted to locate the missing citizen on the outside of the fortress. As darkness began to fall, no attempt was going to be made to locate the other injured American citizen. Chief Petty Officer Bass then took matters into his own hands. Without regard for his own personal safety, he moved forward another 300-400 meters into the heart of the fortress by himself under constant enemy fire in an attempt to locate the injured citizen. Running low on ammunition, he utilized weapons from deceased Afghans to continue his rescue attempt. Upon verifying the condition and location of the American citizen, he withdrew from the fortress. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Chief Petty Officer Bass reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

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