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Special Forces GIs honored for valor in Afghanistan

Six soldiers, left, with Operational Detachment A 0122, 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) received medals of valor for their actions in Afghanistan during a ceremony Wednesday at Panzer Kaserne in Stuttgart, Germany.

WARREN PEACE / S&S

By WARREN PEACE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 1, 2009

STUTTGART, Germany — Leaders of 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) said their soldiers disrupted roadside bomb networks and killed two Taliban leaders in Logar province, Afghanistan, during a recent deployment.

For their combat actions there, Staff Sgts. Steven Hurt and Jason LeBeau received Bronze Star Medals with “V” devices, and Staff Sgts. Daniel Devlin, John Lewis, Juan Mata and Christofer Smith received Army Commendation Medals with “V” devices. Devlin also received a Purple Heart. All are members of Company B.

The soldiers earned their medals during two firefights highlighted in speeches at an awards ceremony Wednesday.

In one of the fights, the company served alongside a Romanian special forces detachment. The units responded to a call April 3 for support from another coalition element, and attacked the enemy’s stronghold with direct fire and grenades. During the battle, Hurt left his covered position, exposing himself to an enemy heavy machine gun to establish satellite communications and maintain a link with their support elements.

Four enemies were confirmed dead. Three of them were believed to be high-value targets, including the Taliban provincial shadow governor.

The Romanian unit’s captain was killed in the fight. There were no U.S. casualties.

In the second firefight, the detachment joined forces April 17 with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, a Romanian special forces detachment and an Afghanistan National Army platoon for Operation KATAN II. The operation targeted an insurgent commander and the leader of a roadside bomb network in the Mohammad Agha District of Logar province.

During an ensuing firefight, LeBeau, Smith, Lewis, Mata and Devlin exposed themselves to enemy fire to provide covering fire and to help care for wounded U.S. and Romanian troops. Devlin was moderately injured when a grenade fragment penetrated his Kevlar helmet, but he continued to provide direct fire on the enemy position.

Post-operation reports confirmed the death of the targeted insurgent commander.

After Wednesday’s ceremony, the Special Forces soldiers mentioned their new friends in the Romanian special forces detachment, with whom they spent seven months training and fighting.

“Afterward, I was heartbroken,” Hurt said about the fight in which the Romanian captain was mortally wounded. “We had been working with him for six months. We became friends. Yeah, we knew we removed the Taliban leader. On the other hand, we lost an ally, a brother.”