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Veteran JBLM special operator recognized for combat valor with Silver and Bronze stars

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Sep. 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm with No Comments »
September 12, 2012 5:33 pm

A veteran special operator at Joint Base Lewis-McChord today received the nation’s third highest medal for combat valor, two years after he took control of a faltering mission that ultimately led to the deaths of more than 1oo insurgents and helped NATO destroy entrenched enemy bunkers in western Afghanistan.

Master Sgt. Michael Hunter, 35, not only received the Silver Star for that April 2010 raid. Today he also received a Bronze Star for a June 2010 mission in which he delivered medical assistance to two wounded soldiers during a 16-hour firefight.

“His courageous actions all the way through the engagement kept momentum in the friendly force’s favor and were decisive to repelling a determined enemy assault and the successful treatment and evacuation of two critically injured U.S. soldiers,” Hunter’s Bronze Star commendation reads.

Hunter is a married father of four who has served in Lewis-McChord’s 1st Special Forces Group since 2007. In addition to fighting in Afghanistan, he has deployed to Iraq, Cambodia and the Philippines.

His Silver Star commendation says Hunter played a crucial role in executing a joint raid with 28 Afghan commandos and three other American special operators.

They intended to identify hardened enemy positions in the Bala Morghab District near Afghanistan’s border with Turkmenistan. They found a surprising network of enemy compounds full of fighters.

By the time of the raid, insurgents had forced out civilians and laid defenses including mined wire obstacles and machine gun bunkers.

The joint commando team snuck through the enemy’s front line and scouted further positions. They first took fire when a man peeked out at them from around a corner and returned with an AK-47. The commandos killed that first shooter.

They took more fire as they approached one of the main enemy positions, killing several insurgents but suffering several nonfatal injuries among their own ranks. They created a helicopter landing zone to evacuate the first four friendly casualties.

Commandos kept moving toward enemy positions, but the Afghan forces started to show reluctance after losing several of their teammates. They were hit hard while trying to clear insurgent tunnels.

“When the (Afghan) commandos refused to return to the offensive and attack the insurgents, Sergeant Hunter calmly stepped to the front of them, moved to the nearest tunnel entrance where the enemy was firing from and personally neutralized the insurgents with fragmentation grenades and M4 small arms fire,” his Silver Star commendation reads.

Afterward, Hunter persisted in putting himself in danger to lead the way for the U.S. and Afghan special operators attacking the enemy compounds.

They discovered an elaborate tunnel network, which they helped obliterate by calling in NATO close air support. Western aircraft dropped four 500-pound bombs on the site, “reducing the compound,” as the commendation reads.

Hunter’s commendation praises him for having the foresight to gather photographs of enemy positions and to pick up material for intelligence analysis.

It also says he played an important role in helping the commands from both nation’s withdraw from the fight under heavy fire.

“Sergeant Hunter refused to allow other (Special Operations Forces) operators to place themselves in these exposed positions and insisted on assuming rearguard duty yet again,” it reads. “Sergeant Hunter’s repeated heroic, selfless actions throughout the withdrawal allowed the patrol to get back to Firebase Todd without suffering any additional serious casualties.

“Throughout the entire 10-hour engagement, Sergeant Hunter repeatedly provided inspiration, leadership, and guidance to brother SOF operators and Afghanistan Army commandos,” the commendation reads.

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