News: Warhorse soldier receives medal for valor
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher McCullough
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - A soldier from 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor, during a ceremony April 12, 2013, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Sgt. Joseph D. Stout, 27, a security team leader with mobile command group, 1-14 Cav. and a native of Cedalia, Colo., received the medal for his actions and courage during a counterassault on Taliban forces from May 3 to May 4, 2012, during the unit’s deployment to southern Afghanistan.
On the morning of May 3 Afghan National Army soldiers from the 6th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps, came in contact with a platoon size element of Taliban and reported foreign fighters dug into dense tree groves adjacent to the villages of Sar, Potey and Pay Kalay.
“We were just there advising them (but) that changed when the ANA started taking casualties,” said Stout.
The firefight started in large part to the ANA's unexpected arrival. At the time they appeared, a poppy seed drug trade was taking place between 60 and 80 Taliban and Chechyan fighters, Stout said. However, the enemy had established observation points and ample area with which to ambush the ANA.
“The next day, when it (the fighting) was all said and done, we found where they (the Taliban) had dug in. They had prepared foxholes … and fortified fighting positions,” Stout explained.
According to the award narrative, the improvised fighting positions allowed the Taliban to inflict numerous casualties upon the ANA, which left the ANA disorganized and mourning the loss of those killed or captured. It was at this point that Stout and his officer-in-charge, Maj. Donald Braman, felt they needed to intervene in order to buoy the ANA’s morale, said Stout.
“Essentially they (ANA) wanted to pull out. We were at a deciding point. The ANA couldn't pull out of it (the battle). The firefight was already going on for two hours and to pull out was going to be detrimental for the ANA side of it. That would have been a major win for the Taliban and there was no way that we could do it. So for us it was a chance and a reason we had to find something (to) motivate them. That motivation just happened to be myself and Maj. Braman. We took a small team (of American and ANA soldiers) down there to essentially find their wounded and the one captured medic they (the Taliban) had (of the ANA),” Stout stated.
The decision to join the fight was the proverbial shot-in-the-arm the ANA needed.
“The morale changed right when we decided and told them 'we're going in with you guys. We're going to do this. You're not alone. You have us.' They knew that we had helicopters ... we could call upon. As soon as they saw us and realized that we're there to help them as well, and fight with them, and die with them if need be, their morale changed and they were 100 percent willing to fight,” Stout said.
Fighting through dense vegetation with only three other U.S. soldiers and a platoon of ANA, Stout led the formation, making contact with the enemy upon each bound further into the enemy defensive zone, the award narrative read.
“Once we were on the ground, about 10 minutes into it, we came under fire. We returned fire and called in helicopters,” said Stout.
Stout’s leadership motivated the ANA and allowed them to mount a counterattack, which pushed the Taliban back enough that helicopters were able to medevac the seriously wounded ANA soldiers.
Stout and his team readily engaged the enemy for nine hours during which Stout, at one point, moved to within hand grenade range of Taliban fighters to identify and mark the positions for attack aviation. According to the award narrative, this action put Stout in extreme danger from Taliban marksmen, but allowed for attack helicopter fires to be employed at a safe distance from nearby civilian structures.
The actions of Stout and his team enabled the ANA to route the Taliban and secure the area, providing the ANA a major victory against a tenacious enemy. For his actions, Stout was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor which is awarded to select service members for distinguishing themselves by heroic acts or valorous deeds not warranting higher awards.