Heroes 2006: ‘We ended up landing on a big nest … we stirred them up’
June 14, 2006
When interpreters with Company C, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, reported that Taliban fighters were radioing to one another that they were preparing to attack the Americans closing on their positions, the soldiers decided to call their bluff.
When the resulting battle subsided more than five hours later, dozens of Taliban were dead and Sgt. Justin Hormann had earned a Bronze Star with “V.”
Hormann earned the award for saving the life of another soldier and leading a squad that was “outgunned (and) outmanned,” according to the award narrative, and pinning down a force of Taliban fighters five times larger than his own.
By the end of the mission, more than 76 Taliban were dead, including 42 killed as a direct result of the actions of Hormann’s squad.
The 22-year-old native of Melbourne, Fla., said that the June 21, 2005, mission in the Sharak Darreh river valley of Afghanistan had started as any other.
The Vicenza, Italy-based soldiers were hunting for a Taliban district chief who was believed to be living in the area. The man had led a recent attack that had destroyed the legitimate Afghan government district headquarters.
Hormann’s platoon inserted near the headquarters, then tried to trick the Taliban into believing that they were leaving the area. Another unit was to move in to engage any enemy forces in the area.
Instead, Hormann and the rest of Chosen Company’s 2nd Platoon became the hunted — as well as the hunters.
“We ended up landing on a big nest or a weapons cache and we stirred them up,” he said about the Taliban.
The 25-man platoon was moving toward some high ground when they were attacked by about 50 enemy fighters with rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and machine guns.
The unit’s 1st Squad was ordered to move over a rocky hilltop and get closer to the enemy.
When they had gotten within 30 feet of the enemy, the squad leader was hit in the arm and suffered severe bleeding.
Seeing this, Hormann sprinted about 30 feet to the staff sergeant and applied a tourniquet that stopped the man from bleeding to death.
He then ordered the wounded soldier moved back to the command post and took charge of the squad, leading it back up the hill toward the enemy.
Hormann led the squad for the next four hours of fighting, during which another soldier was wounded, and the squad was ordered to pull back. Grabbing the wounded man’s Squad Automatic Weapon, Hormann lay down suppressing fire that allowed the squad to move down from the hill.
Eventually, the soldiers set up a patrol base for the night, and later were flown from the valley.
A few days later, Hormann found out both that the wounded soldiers would be fine, and that he was being recommended for a Bronze Star.
“That was the last thing on my mind,” he said about the medal. “It was not really something I was thinking about. It was kind of like a bonus after learning that everybody was going to be fine.”
Justin HormannUnit: Company C, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry RegimentMedals: Bronze Star with “V”Earned: June 21, 2005, in the Sharak Darreh river valley, Afghanistan
More profiles from the 2006 edition of this Stars and Stripes special section:
Capt. Marlon JamesSpc. Kurt-Alexander KaahuiPetty Officer 3rd Class Robert MaldonadoCapt. Chad T. MartinMaj. Lauralee McGunagle and Maj. Kathryn Van AukenChief Warrant Officer 3 Brian MucciStaff Sgt. Timothy Nein, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester and Spc. Jason MikeStaff Sgt. Jason PepperPetty Officer 2nd Class Juan RubioMaster Sgt. Suran SarStaff Sgt. Anthony ViggianiStaff Sgt. Matt Blaskowski and Staff Sgt. Christopher Choay1st Lt. Stephen BoadaSgt. Keith CamardoSgt. 1st Class Makonen CampbellCol. James Coffman Jr.Petty Officer 2nd Class Alan DementerCapt. Steven Victor EngbergPetty Officer 3rd Class Clayton GarciaLance Cpl. Ben GonzalezSgt. Justin HormannLt. Cmdr. Richard JadickVisit Heroes 2006 for more