(WASHINGTON) — A former Army staff sergeant who helped repel one of the deadliest attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan will receive the Medal of Honor. Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, 31, becomes only the fourth living recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The White House announced Friday that on Feb. 11 Romesha will receive the medal for his actions in repelling the deadly attack on Combat Outpost Keating on Oct. 3, 2009. At the time Romesha was serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
The attack by hundreds of Taliban fighters on the remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan killed eight American soldiers and left 22 others wounded. The attack was profiled in the book The Outpost by Jake Tapper, formerly of ABC News.
Romesha will become the 11th veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be awarded the medal. Seven of them have been awarded posthumously.
Combat Outpost Keating was a small base in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province, located at the bottom of a valley surrounded on all sides by steep mountain ridges. Plans to close the base had been delayed for months when the attack was launched by 300 Taliban fighters, hiding in the rugged terrain.
According to the citation accompanying his award, Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and was injured by a rocket propelled grenade as he engaged a second one.
“Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight,” says the citation, “and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers.”
Now leading a five-man team, Romesha used a sniper rifle to fight back Taliban attackers, including three who had breached the outpost’s perimeter.
“With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets,” says the citation.
Maintaining radio communication with the tactical operations center at the base, Romesha identified a main point of attackers and directed air support that killed “over 30 enemy fighters.”
“After learning that other Soldiers at a distant battle position were still alive, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire, allowing three of their wounded comrades to reach the aid station.” Romesha and his team then “pushed forward 100 meters under withering fire, to recover the bodies of their fallen comrades.”
The citation says “Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers. His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating.”
After the battle, Outpost Keating was finally closed down.
Romesha enlisted in the Army in September 1999 and served until April 2011. Married and a father of three, he currently lives in Minot, N.D.
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