A former Army staff sergeant who helped fight off one of the largest and most brutal attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan will receive the Medal of Honor next month, the White House said Friday.
President Barack Obama will bestow the medal on Clinton Romesha of Minot, North Dakota, for his ‘courageous actions’ in Afghanistan in 2009 while he was serving as a section leader during combat operations against armed enemy forces at Combat Outpost Keating in the country’s Nuristan Province.
Romesha, 31, will become the fourth living service member to receive the nation’s highest award for valor for overseas duty in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Deadly battle: The attack against Romesha and his comrades remains one of the deadliest against coalition forces in Afghanistan
Seven other service members have been posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in those wars.
The husband and father of three was a section leader in B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during the October 3, 2009, attack on the remote mountaintop in eastern Afghanistan.
The attack remains one of the deadliest against coalition forces in Afghanistan and is chronicled in the book ‘The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor’ written by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Eight U.S. soldiers were killed and two dozen others were wounded in the battle in Nuristan as they fought against an overwhelming Taliban insurgent force that launched the hostile attack to overrun them.
The Taliban had been harassing the troopers at Keating for several months, attacking them three or four times a week, according to an account of the battle on Examiner.com.
Location of attack: The October 3, 2009, attack took place on the remote mountaintop in eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province
In total, 50 American, 20 Afghan and two Latvian soldiers were stationed at the post in addition to a dozen or so Afghan Security Guards.
Nearby, 19 American and 10 Afghan soldiers at Observation Post Fritsche also came under heavy fire as well.
The enemy quickly brought mayhem on the two posts firing a recoilless rifle, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, machine guns and rifles.
Two minutes into the attack, the first U.S. soldier was killed as the enemy targeted the COP’s mortar pit and pinned down the soldiers stationed at Fritsche, preventing them from providing supporting fire to Keating.
The Afghan troops and security guards reportedly abandoned their posts, leaving the Americans and Latvians to fight alone.
Within the first three hours of the battle, mortars hit the two stations every 15 seconds, and in less than an hour, the enemy swarmed Keating, eventually setting fire to the outpost and destroying almost 70 per cent of it.
Romesha and his fellow soldiers fought back for hours as heavy enemy fire came down on them from all directions.
The staff sergeant moved under intense enemy fire to observe the battlefield and then went to seek reinforcements from the barracks, according to the citation accompanying Romesha’s Medal of Honor.
He returned to action with the support of an assistant gunner, who is identified in ‘The Outpost’ as Corporal Justin Gregory.
Romesha ‘took out an enemy machine gun team and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds,’ according to the citation.
Despute his injuries, Romesha continued to fight, and as another soldier arrived to aid him he ‘rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers.’
Romesha then mobilized a five-man team, which he led back to the battle.
‘With complete disregard for his own safety, Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire as he moved confidently about the battlefield, engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter,’ the citation reads.
As the insurgent group attacked the outpost with even ‘greater ferocity, unleashing a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds,’ Romesha ‘identified the point of attack and directed air support to destroy over 30 enemy fighters.’
As soon as he learned that soldiers at the other battle position were still alive, he and his team provided covering fire, allowing three of their wounded comrades to reach the aid station, according to the citation.
Romesha and his team also ran 100 meters under fire to recover the bodies of their fallen comrades.
Romesha, the son of a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church in Cedarville, California, has been described as intense, short and wiry, according to Gannett’s Army Times.
The 31-year-old war veteran will be awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House on February 11, according to the announcement.