The nation’s highest combat medal will be awarded to a Green Beret who fought up a mountain while under intense enemy fire to help rescue four wounded members of his team pinned down by gunfire.
The battle took place April 6, 2008 in Shok Valley, Afghanistan, during a joint U.S.-Afghan raid to kill or capture Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the former Hezebela Islami Gulbadin militia that is now an Afghan political party following a peace agreement.
President Donald J. Trump will award Williams an upgrade to the Medal of Honor on Oct. 30, the White House announced in a press release Thursday morning.
During the 2008 raid, Williams’ ODA and their Afghan commando partner force infiltrated into Nuristan Province’s Shok Valley via CH-47 Chinook helicopters. The terrain was too steep to land the aircraft, so the men leaped out while it hovered and took a 10-foot drop into a river.
Their mission was to hike up a near-vertical 60-foot mountain face and capture Hekmatyar, who was supposed to be in a compound at the top.
However, the austere valley and sheer cliffs erupted with sniper, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire from multiple peaks not long after the soldiers disembarked their aircraft. During the ensuing fight, a group of U.S. soldiers was pinned down with wounded.
“In the face of rocket-propelled grenade, sniper, and machine gun fire, Sergeant Williams led an Afghan Commando element across a fast-moving, ice cold, and waist-deep river to fight its way up a terraced mountain to the besieged lead element of the assault force,” the Medal of Honor announcement reads. “Sergeant Williams then set up a base of fire that the enemy was not able to overcome.”
When his team sergeant was wounded by a sniper, Williams exposed himself to enemy fire to come to his aid and to move him down the mountainside to the casualty collection point.
Williams again braved small arms fire and climbed back up the cliff to evacuate other injured soldiers and repair the team’s satellite radio. He then helped move several casualties down the near vertical mountainside as he carried and loaded casualties onto evacuation helicopters.
“Williams’s actions helped save the lives of four critically wounded soldiers and prevented the lead element of the assault force from being overrun by the enemy," the announcement reads.
Williams and nine other U.S. soldiers received valor awards for the actions during the battle in 2008.
Former Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II received the Medal of Honor last year for his actions as the Special Forces medic during the battle. The team’s Air Force Combat Controller, former Master Sgt. Zachary Rhyner, also received the Air Force Cross in 2009 for his actions in coordinating airstrikes from exposed positions.
The U.S. military claims that more than 150 insurgents were killed during the roughly seven-hour gunfight.
Williams, a native of Boerne, Texas, joined the Army in September 2005 after obtained a bachelor’s degree from Angelo State University.
He enlisted under the 18X Special Forces program, which offers a direct route to the coveted Green Beret if a soldier can pass the training regimen.
Williams completed Infantry One Station Unit Training and Airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, before attending and graduating Special Forces Qualification Course as a weapons sergeant in 2007.
He was then assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group, out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he is currently stationed today and lives with his wife and son.
During his career, Williams deployed multiple times to Afghanistan and Africa’s Sahel region.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.