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Spc. Jonathan Smiley receives one of the 48 Bronze Star Medals with valor that members of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment have earned during their tour in Afghanistan. Lt. Col Bill Ostlund’s battalion still has about a month in country before heading back to Vicenza, Italy.

Spc. Jonathan Smiley receives one of the 48 Bronze Star Medals with valor that members of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment have earned during their tour in Afghanistan. Lt. Col Bill Ostlund’s battalion still has about a month in country before heading back to Vicenza, Italy. (Kent Harris / S&S)

Six soldiers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment have received Silver Stars during the unit’s tour in Afghanistan. A brief look at their actions, according to the narratives submitted for the awards:

Staff Sgt. Robert J. Smith and Sgt. Mattew D. Coulter earned their medals on July 5, 2007, during an air assault by soldiers from Company A into the village of Tsangar.

Smith, acting as a platoon sergeant for the mission, organized the defense of his unit and an Afghan National Army contingent that came under attack away from the main company element. After evacuating wounded soldiers, Smith’s squad came under attack again. He directed the perimeter defense "without regard to the hail of enemy fire and RPG strikes only feet from his position."

Coulter called in strikes by French Mirage fighter jets in the initial contact and later directed artillery strikes to suppress enemy fire and "exposed himself to intense enemy fire in order to maintain observation of direct fire and ensure his fellow Paratroopers received the most accurate and timely fires."

First Lt. Matthew Ferrara and Spc. Jason Baldwin of Company C were honored for their efforts during an attack by insurgents on Aug. 22 on the Ranch House outpost. A numerically superior enemy force almost overran the compound before the attackers were repelled.

Ferrara maintained communications with his headquarters even after an rocket-propelled grenade took out his antenna. He then directed A-10 fire against posts on base that enemy forces had overrun and directed an offensive against insurgents once reinforcements arrived.

Baldwin protected Ferrara and the command center by firing his 60 mm mortar at the advancing enemy and tossing hand grenades at enemy forces that had advanced to within 10 meters of his position. "He acted without regard for his own life, but with incredible courage and quick thinking that destroyed a quickly advancing enemy force…," according to the narrative.

Ferrara was later killed in an ambush.

First Lt. Gregory Ambrosia, executive officer of Company A, led a platoon-size element during a night assault into the upper Watapur Valley on Sept. 25. The platoon’s position was attacked in the morning and Ambrosia lobbed several hand grenades at enemy positions before ordering five smoke grenades to mark U.S. positions. He then directed repeated artillery fire and Apache helicopter attacks "while receiving intense enemy fire directed at his command post."

Staff Sgt. Erick Gallardo’s platoon from Company B was providing support for other elements when it was ambushed on Oct. 25. Two of his soldiers were immediately hit. Gallardo led his team to the wounded soldiers and was struck in the helmet by an AK-47 round.

He directed suppressing fire and continued to move toward the enemy and his fallen soldiers, tossing hand grenades.

He then treated one wounded soldier while two other soldiers fought off insurgents trying to carry away another wounded soldier. Gallardo then treated that soldier and coordinated the platoon’s defense and evacuation of five wounded soldiers.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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