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Pararescuemen receive Silver Stars after saving dozens of lives in Afghanistan

Left to right, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and Lt. Col. Douglas Holliday stand with pararescuemen Tech. Sgt. Gavin Fisher and Staff Sgt. Daniel Swensen during a Silver Star Medal ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 13, 2019. Fisher and Swensen received the medals for gallantry in action while deployed to Afghanistan.

BRYAN GUTHRIE/U.S. AIR FORCE

By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 16, 2019

Two pararescuemen credited with saving dozens of lives during intense combat in Afghanistan have received Silver Star Medals, the Air Force said.

Tech Sgt. Gavin Fisher and Staff Sgt. Daniel Swensen, who were lauded for their actions in separate clashes, received the third-highest military award for bravery in a ceremony Friday at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

“Getting this medal is important because it lets people know the war is still going on, and valiant efforts by men and women are still going forth,” Fisher said in the statement. “People are still out there dying and fighting for each other, and it needs to be recognized.”

Fisher, who also received a Purple Heart, fought in a fierce battle in the strategically important southeastern city of Ghazni in August of 2018.

An assault by more than 1,000 Taliban fighters occupied much of the city — home to 280,000 people — prompting American forces to send support and launch airstrikes against the insurgents.

Fisher served as the rear gunner in a convoy that was struck by rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire during a Taliban ambush, an Air Force statement said.

Even after being wounded by grenade shrapnel, Fisher continued firing back at his attackers and gave medical treatment to critically injured soldiers during two ambushes, the Air Force said.

The Air Force credits Fisher with saving the lives of 10 critically injured soldiers, evacuating 20 more and eliminating 118 Taliban fighters.

Swensen received his medal for fighting in western Farah province in September, the statement said.

He was part of an Army Special Forces helicopter assault to reclaim a police headquarters taken by the Taliban. Militants sprang an ambush on a ground assault team Swensen was leading through a compound, separating them from their supporting fire team and pinning them down, before a grenade blast wounded Swensen and five others. Despite his wounds, the pararescueman ran through enemy fire to treat an injured soldier before moving him to safety, the Air Force said.

Swensen carried one of the wounded as he and the others moved to an extraction point about half a mile away. But, as they waited for a medical evacuation helicopter to arrive, the Taliban launched a second attack.

Braving enemy fire, Swensen directed his comrades to cover, then continued treating the wounded until they could be evacuated. He then stayed behind to lead the remaining troops back through the enemy-occupied town to rescue four more injured soldiers. In all, he saved nine lives, the statement said.

“It’s weird to receive so much attention for something that I feel anyone else would’ve done on the battlefield that night,” Swensen said in the statement. “I’m honored my peers think I deserve this medal.”

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Twitter: @jplawrence3

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., Pacific Air Forces commander, presents the Silver Star Medal to Tech. Sgt. Gavin Fisher, 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron pararescueman, in a ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 13, 2019.
BRYAN GUTHRIE/U.S. AIR FORCE

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., Pacific Air Forces commander, presents the Silver Star Medal to Staff Sgt. Daniel Swensen, 58th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, in a ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 13, 2019.
BRYAN GUTHRIE/U.S. AIR FORCE

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