12 Marines receive medals for heroism for evacuating US Embassy in war-torn Sudan
Stars and Stripes May 22, 2023
WASHINGTON — Twelve Marines received decorations for their efforts last month when they helped evacuate American workers from the U.S. Embassy in Sudan, just days after a bloody military power struggle broke out in the northeastern African country.
“I came here today to look you in the eye and say, ‘Thank you,’ ” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told the group from the Marine Security Guard detachment in Sudan that carried out the evacuation on April 23.
The Sudanese military junta has been locked in a power struggle for weeks with the Rapid Support Forces, which it considers a rebel paramilitary group that’s seeking full integration into the government structure and a power-sharing agreement. The military factions together mounted a coup in 2021 that overthrew the country’s transitional democratic leadership.
The fighting began in mid-April when the Rapid Support Forces attacked several targets in Sudan, including the capital city of Khartoum and its airport. A few days later, President Joe Biden ordered the Marine detachment in Khartoum to get all embassy personnel out, including U.S. Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey.
Pentagon officials said the operation was risky due to the unpredictable nature of the fighting, but it took less than an hour for the Marines to get all embassy personnel out without a shot fired and there were no serious injuries.
“The example that you have set protecting the life of the ambassador and the lives of all the people who were at the embassy has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Del Toro told the group Friday during a recognition ceremony at Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Headquarters in Quantico, Va.
The 12 Marines were honored during the ceremony. Eleven received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, which is awarded to those who perform commendably or make exceptional achievements. Staff Sgt. Derek Ferrari, who led the detachment, received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, which honors those who demonstrate “heroic or meritorious achievement or service,” according to the Navy Awards Manual.
“It’s a humble feeling,” Ferrari said. “I continue to be impressed with my Marines’ ability to remain engaged and take care of one another the same way they did in Khartoum.”
“It is a great honor and a great privilege,” said Sgt. Komlan Akli, another member of the detachment. “The detachment did exactly what is expected of U.S. Marines during times of uncertainty.”
Since the embassy evacuation, the Pentagon has kept some American forces in the area, including ships off the coast in the Red Sea, in case they are needed to help more Americans and others who want to leave the country. The Defense Department said recently that there were only a “small number” of Americans in the country — mostly Sudanese Americans who hold dual citizenship — who were still looking for a way out.
Hundreds of fighters and civilians have died since the fighting began in Sudan, according to the U.N., and several ceasefires have failed. A new seven-day truce took effect Monday night Sudan time. U.S. and Saudi officials who mediated the deal hope it will be more effective than the previous ceasefires, which were broken quickly.
The U.N. estimates the fighting has already displaced more than one million people, and close to 25 million people in Sudan need some type of humanitarian aid because of the conflict.