News: US, Polish army soldiers earn valor awards for Ghazni base attack
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Leslie Long
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter recognized four American and three Polish army soldiers for valor Sept. 15 at Forward Operating Base Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan.
Polish 2nd Lt. Karol Cierpica, U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Lester Edwards, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Nate Abkemeier, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. DaRelle LaMarque received the Bronze Star Medal for valor. Polish Lt. Col. Krzysztof Slomski, Polish 1st Lt. Tomaz Sobanski, and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Clemens received the U.S. Army Commendation Medal for valor.
“This morning we recognize exceptional soldiers from three exceptional armies [American, Polish, and Afghan] joined here together in Afghanistan, showing exceptional partnership, military professionalism, skill and success,” Carter said.
An unknown number of Taliban fighters initiated the complex attack Aug. 28 on FOB Ghazni. The attack began with a car bomb exploding to gain access through the perimeter wall. Within seconds of the blast, 10 insurgents wearing suicide vests filed into the compound.
The initial response force, including those recognized in the ceremony, believed they were going to the blast site to provide first aid for potential wounded. Rather they were met by the suicide bombers who also were armed with assault rifles. At least 10 minutes of intense close combat ensued. Most of the coalition troops fought through gunshot and shrapnel wounds, but they eventually killed all of the suicide bombers before they could reach populated areas of the camp.
Meanwhile, Taliban fighters positioned in the mountains and along the outskirts of the base fired mortars, shoulder-fired rockets machine guns and threw hand grenades. Afghan forces found a second car bomb near the base and were able to secure it before it could be used. Carter awarded two Afghan soldiers with certificates of appreciation for rending the second car bomb safe.
Rocket and mortar fire continued sporadically throughout the afternoon and into the night.
When the fighting was done, one U.S. soldier and one Polish soldier were killed during the attack. Several U.S., NATO and Afghan troops sustained injuries.
Carter lauded their bravery and concerted efforts to protect their fellow military members.
“The victory you had over the enemy here a few short days ago is a small example of the victory coalition and Afghan forces are having throughout the country,” Carter said.
The acts of bravery during this day of intensive close quarters combat did not end with the men recognized by Carter. More men met the enemy head on, including at least four U.S. service members whose actions were pivotal during the battle. Those individuals have also been recommended for valorous awards in keeping with their considerable contributions.
“What these soldiers showed was not only acts of extreme courage and bravery. They displayed tremendous acts of skill, initiative and fortitude all wrapped up in one event,” U.S. Army Col. Patrick Roberson, commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan, said. “Most people probably would not have taken the risks they did – exposing themselves to the enemy in the open with no cover. But they were only thinking about engaging the enemy, not their personal safety.”