Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of Army Special Operations Command, presents the Silver Star Medal to Maj. Robert Beale, 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). Beale and six others were presented the award at a ceremony Feb. 22 at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. (160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment)
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Seven soldiers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment received Silver Stars for their actions during a harrowing rescue in Afghanistan.
The soldiers, from the regiment's 3rd Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., were honored with the nation's third-highest award for valor during a ceremony Feb. 22.
They were honored for their actions of Sept. 14, 2011.
Six other soldiers received the Distinguished Flying Cross, also for their actions on that day.
In addition, seven soldiers from the 160th, including one of the Silver Star recipients, received the Air Medal with "V" device for their actions during separate missions.
One other soldier, Sgt. Jonathan L. Nichols, received a Purple Heart for wounds he received in action Sept. 29.
Officials declined to discuss many details of the events of Sept. 14, 2011, due to the sensitive nature of the 160th's missions. However, officials confirmed that the soldiers were responding to a distress call for a risky daytime casualty evacuation in an area known for heavy insurgent activity.
During the awards ceremony, Lt. Col. William Golden, commander of 3rd Battalion, said the aircrews saved the life of a Navy explosive ordnance disposal technician who was supporting American special operations teams on the ground.
"He stepped on a personnel [improvised explosive device] just as the sun rose, and the urgent call for medevac was monitored by men who thought their mission [for the day] was complete but live by the mantra of ‘Night Stalkers Don't Quit,'" Golden said.
Within two minutes, the crews were up and ready to go, he said.
"So began a mission that would save the life of one, and would put the lives of 13 at risk," he said. "All would say, ‘I was just doing my job.' All would say, ‘I don't deserve it.'"
Sgt. Bobby Buchanan was a crew chief on one of the MH-47 Chinooks that day.
He received the DFC, which is awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement during aerial flight.
Buchanan, 28, said he was honored to receive the DFC, and the occasion was even sweeter because his fellow aviators were being honored, as well.
"All of us together were able to get this guy out, and he was OK," he said. "I think it shows how much of a team it requires to do any of the missions that we do, especially that one. We have a brotherhood here. We all went through this together, and everyone was recognized together."
All the award recipients "represent many," Golden said.
"Their actions are, in fact, as they would say, very normal in this organization," he said. "A formation of men who are fathers, brothers, husbands and warriors, taking the fight to our nation's enemies on a daily basis."