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U.S. Soldiers Awarded Three Silver Stars for Bravery During Fierce Firefight

"We do what we’re trained to do."

The army has awarded three silver stars-- the third highest awards given for valor-- resulting from an intense, multi-pronged firefight in Kunar province, Afghanistan, last year.

Staff Sgt. Sean Outman and Sgt. Rocky Bloom were able to receive their awards at a ceremony in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, last week. Spc. Jesse Snow, one of the recipients, was awarded the medal posthumously.

Spc. Jesse Snow, Staff Sgt. Sean Outman and Sgt. Rocky Bloom who belong to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, were among those ambushed by Taliban fighters on Nov. 14, 2010. The enemy launched an L-shaped ambush, and attempted to overrun soldiers from A Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment.

Army Times wrote a gripping, blow-by-blow description of the firefight that day in Kunar Province, excerpts of which are below:

Rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire slammed into the soldiers’ command post, immediately taking out some of their weapon systems.

RPGs continued to rain down and the enemy fired an “overwhelming” amount of machine-gun fire, he helped another soldier drag two wounded comrades more than 30 feet to a more secure casualty collection point.

The enemy started attacking as Bloom, a team leader at the time, and his soldiers were settling into their fighting positions, he said.

“When they started attacking us, at first things were pretty normal as far as contact is concerned, and then things went downhill pretty fast after that,” Bloom said.

When the Afghan National Army gun team stopped firing their M240B machine gun because of a malfunction, Bloom grabbed the gun, fixed the problem and began suppressing the enemy.

Around that time, Bloom’s squad automatic weapon gunner and a soldier equipped with the M203 grenade launcher both got hit by ricocheting bullets,

While Bloom continued to man the M240B, Outman had been treating a soldier who had been shot in the stomach. He then grabbed a medic and, under fire, brought him to the casualty collection point to treat even more wounded.

“At that time, my SAW [Squad Automatic Weapon] gunner got my attention

that we were taking contact from the east and the enemy was assaulting our position,” Outman said. “We were now in a full-blown attack.”

Outman and his SAW gunner fought back and came face-to-face with an enemy fighter preparing to shoot a rocket-propelled grenade from just five meters away.

“He just came right out of the bushes,” Outman said. “We chased him back and, at that point, we realized we were in a bad position and we needed to fall back to a better position.”

Not long after that, Outman, who was in the prone position near an American gun team, was shot by a round that broke through the back plate of his body armor, bounced off a rib and exited his right shoulder.

Outman, his right arm now useless, moved back to the casualty collection point and Snow began treating him.

The enemy volume of fire continued to increase, dwindling away the 18 inches of effective cover that Spc. Snow was utilizing to treat Sgt. Outman, as they drew closer to his position.

Spc. Snow then, without hesitation and [with] disregard to his own personal safety, placed himself on top of Sgt. Outman, shielding him from incoming machine-gun fire as he again performed life-saving First Aid.

Bloom said he saw Snow working on Outman’s wounds.

“It all kind of happened in slow motion,” he said. “Spc. Snow got hit as he was giving first aid to Sgt. Outman. He slumped to the ground on top of Sgt. Outman. I took two to three seconds, held my breath just in disbelief and shook out of it because I had to keep going.”

Outman said he saw Snow get hit in the head.

“He just went limp and [another soldier] tried to review him, tried to check him, and there was no response,” Outman said. “It happened so fast.”

Outman and the other wounded soldiers crowded into a nearby ditch.

“I kept wanting to get a weapon and return fire, but where I was at, we were continually pinned by fire there,” he said. “There was no raising up to shoot. We had other elements of our platoon engaging the enemy, but where I was, it was impossible.”

As the enemy continued to attack, Bloom heard a fellow soldier, who had been wounded, crying out for help.

“I couldn’t wait,” he said. “He needed help. When your buddy is there asking for help, it’s not something you can ignore.”

Bloom was shot when he reached the other soldier, Spc. Nathan Lillard.

A bullet barreled through the top of Bloom’s left shoulder and exited through his left arm.

“It felt like a hot, burning sensation, but with everything going on, it didn’t really register until later that night,” he said.

Bloom put a tourniquet on his left arm and turned his focus to Lillard, who had been shot in the leg and the abdomen and who would later die from his wounds.

“I made sure he knew I was there, that he wasn’t by himself,” Bloom said.

Bloom grabbed Lillard’s weapon and fired it as he moved Lillard back to the casualty collection point. He then continued to pull security, and it wasn’t until an hour or two later that Bloom began to feel woozy from the loss of blood.

“The pain was pretty unbearable,” he said. “I know I passed out afterward. I was exhausted. I didn’t have any more left to give.”

Bloom and Outman were both medically evacuated from Afghanistan. Both are still undergoing physical therapy.

Outman said he owes his life to the five soldiers who were killed that day — Snow, Lillard, Pfc. Christian Warriner, Spc. Shane Ahmed and Spc. Scott Nagorski.

“They were still fighting the fight while I was out of commission,” he said. “They were the ones who held off the enemy long enough for us to survive.”

After the ceremony at Fort Campbell,  Sgt Bloom told Stripes that being awarded the Silver Star:

“wasn’t anything I was expecting for doing what I did out there... we do what we’re trained to do, so any one of those guys in my platoon would have done the same thing.”

Many at home are debating the merits of our continued presence in Afghanistan, but irrespective of politics, our fighting men and women are making us proud every day, and their sacrifices and valor demand our deepest respect and highest praise.

(h/t Army Times)

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