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7 civil affairs soldiers at Fort Bragg to be honored for valor in Afghanistan

Seven civil affairs soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg will be honored today for valor in Afghanistan.

The soldiers are part of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion and were serving with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, will present the soldiers with medals during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Auditorium on Fort Bragg.

The awards include a Silver Star Medal, the military's third-highest award for valor; two Bronze Star Medals with Valor Devices; and four Army Commendation Medals with Valor Devices.

The Silver Star will be awarded to Staff Sgt. Michael P. Pate.

Pate, 30, of Charleston, S.C., is a member of Civil Affairs Team 611, A Company.

According to a citation for his award, Pate was part of a Nov. 1, 2012, civil reconnaissance patrol when his unit was ambushed east of the village of Sardar Kala, Afghanistan.

With only ankle-high irrigation berms for cover, Pate found himself fewer than 200 yards away from two fortified heavy machine gun positions and at least six other enemy shooters hiding in a dense orchard.

With one of his teammates critically wounded in the ambush, Pate risked his life to save the soldier by running more than 50 yards toward the enemy.

Pate and Capt. Jacob Allen dragged the wounded soldier behind a berm, then Pate performed surgery for more than 10 minutes while also returning fire to the enemy position.

He then "remained exposed while hundreds of enemy bullets impacted all around" as he coordinated air support and a medical evacuation.

For his role, Allen, 32, of Williamsburg, Va., earned the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device. The leader of Team 611, Allen also doubled back to save the wounded soldier and helped Pate render aid in the open field.

Allen fired the wounded soldier's heavy weapon until it jammed, according to the citation for his award, then began firing with his own rifle, remaining exposed until he could direct other soldiers to the location of the enemy.

Two other soldiers from Team 611 will be awarded for valor for the same patrol.

Sgt. 1st Class Kevin L. Hargrove, 31, of Mount Holly, N.J., and Sgt. 1st Class Kevin W. Oakes, 36, of Bad Hersfeld, Germany, will receive an Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device.

According to medal citations, Hargrove and Oaks drew fire away from their injured teammate during the ambush.

Hargrove led soldiers through stream beds while under fire to outflank the enemy and send them fleeing from their fortified positions.

His soldiers were able to seize hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

The three other soldiers who will be honored are Staff Sgt. Philip A. Aubrey, Sgt. 1st Class Donovan S. Johnson and 1st Sgt. Jamie T. Mullinax.

Aubrey, 32, of Sante Fe, N.M., will receive the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device.

According to a citation, Aubrey was the medic on a patrol out of a remote Afghan base on Nov. 5, 2012.

When his unit came under attack, Aubrey maneuvered from the back of the patrol to treat a soldier from a partner force who was injured, sprinting 50 feet through incoming fire to treat the wounded soldier while completely exposed.

Mullinax and Johnson are also members of Team 611 and will receive the Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device for actions during separate patrols, according to their citations.

Johnson, 28, of Crossnore was part of an April 26, 2012, that came under attack during a village stability operation in an enemy-dominated village.

During the attack, Johnson was trapped with four other soldiers in a narrow pathway flanked by mud walls.

Isolated from the rest of the patrol, Johnson maneuvered through the exposed alley, jumping over walls to spy enemy fighting positions to relay to his commander.

"He selflessly exposed himself to the enemy at least a half dozen times, as rounds snapped overhead and impacted the walls around him," according to the award citation.

Mullinax, 43, of Catawba County was on a different village stability operation on September, 27, 2012, when his patrol came under attack from a "highly organized enemy."

Mullinax bounded across open terrain to a defensive fighting position, then called out the direction and location of enemy fighters.

Then, with two other soldiers, Mullinax sprinted to another post while avoiding bullets and an incoming rocket-propelled grenade, according to the award citation. Mullinax again engaged the enemy while relaying information to his commander during the 30-minute firefight.

 brooksd@fayobserver.com

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