Two 3rd Group Soldiers receive Silver Stars

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http://news.soc.mil/releases/News Archive/2009/December/091218-03.html

FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Hundreds of Soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) gathered Wednesday to recognize the valor and sacrifice of 40 of their own during a valor award ceremony in the John F. Kennedy auditorium.

Staff Sgt. Linsey Clarke, who serves as a medical sergeant, for Operational Detachment-Alpha 3123, Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Master Sgt. Anthony Siriwardene, an operations sergeant of Operational Detachment Alpha 3236, Co. C, 2nd Bn., 3rd SFG were each awarded the Silver Star for acts of valor during battles in Afghanistan.

The crowd of Soldiers, Family members and friends stood as Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, pinned the medals on their uniforms.

“Strength and honor was the motto given to Task Force Dagger,” said Mulholland.

Strength and honor is exactly what you heard exemplified here today in the combat actions of our Silver Star recipients.”

A Daily Patrol

The sky was clear. The air had a bite to it, but for Afghanistan it was a beautiful day, said Clarke.

It was February 20, 2009. Clarke was the driver of one of four vehicles conducting a joint operations patrol with members of the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and Czech Special Operation Forces in Khordi, a village in southern Afghanistan.

In unison, the third vehicle in the convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device and the lead vehicle was engaged by rocket propelled grenades. Each vehicle was taking small arms fire from both the east and west as the patrol was being ambushed.

Clarke immediately backed up his vehicle to assist those who had been struck by the roadside bomb. He dismounted and ran through a volley of fire to discover three of the men inside had been killed instantly. The two remaining teammates were alive, but both were badly wounded.

Clarke found Staff Sgt. Eric Englehardt first. Both his legs were broken and he was bleeding heavily, so Clarke quickly and calmly applied a tourniquet to his right leg and dragged him from the burning vehicle. With no cover, and enemy fire on both sides, Clarke returned to the destroyed vehicle and found Master Sgt. David Hurt. He again dragged his comrade to safety.

With the team’s other medic now tending to the wounded, Clarke volunteered to stay in the firefight to secure the remains of the fallen Soldiers.

Today, even with a Silver Star pinned to his chest, Clarke still doesn’t believe he is a hero.

“It’s something any one of those guys would’ve done for me. There wasn’t a second thought,” he said.

Siriwardene directs the fight

In August, four years earlier, Siriwardene and his teammates battled for 56 hours through seven enemy engagements in Zabol Province, Afghanistan.

Working alongside the Afghan National Army, Siriwardene’s team came under heavy enemy fire while on patrol in the Buka Ghar Valley, an insurgent stronghold.

During the second engagement, Siriwardene repeatedly left the safety of his vehicle to reposition an element of ANA soldiers, said Capt. Blayne Smith, Siriwardene’s team leader.

“The enemy forces would have taken advantage of the ANA element and would have destroyed their unit if Master Sgt. Siriwardene had not directed them in the right positions,” said Smith.

As the battle raged on, the insurgents called for reinforcements and regrouped into better-trained, stronger units in order to attack again.

The sixth engagement found the team taking extraordinary volumes of machine gun fire and a vicious onslaught of rocket propelled grenades. Siriwardene again risked his life by sprinting to the last truck which was taking the brunt of the attack.

As the turret burst into flames, Siriwardene pulled the gunner to safety and then using the cover of a vehicle began to gather up ANA soldiers who had been pinned down by enemy fire.

The following morning, Siriwardene’s team was joined by a Quick Reaction Force element and after the fiercest of the seven battles, was able crush the enemy forces.

“We had pinpointed and fixed the enemy,” said Siriwardene. “Now, we basically controlled the tempo of the battle.”

When the fighting was over, the team was able to confirm 65 enemy kills.

Like Clarke, Siriwardene doesn’t believe he did anything to deserve recognition over his teammates.

“The way the guys in the detachment performed – it was amazing,” he said. “This is what we do.”

These awards show the level of dedication these Soldiers have to the team and to the mission, said Capt. Adam Paxton, Clarke’s team leader.

“It’s not without sacrifice. It’s not without loss. But, victory is the end state achieved by these men,” said Mulholland.

Along with the two Silver Stars, Mulholland presented nine Bronze Stars with valor devices, six Purple Hearts, and 25 Army Commendation Medals with valor devices, all to brave 3rd Special Forces Group Soldiers.
 

Aequitas

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Linsey is a good friend of mine. Great guy, awesome friend, and a truly incredible soldier. America needs more warriors like him. I'm honored to call him my friend and brother in arms. Good on you Clarkie and RIP to our fallen brothers.
 
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