On Thursday, May 25, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to Britt Slabinski for a rescue mission he carried out against al-Qaeda on a treacherous mountain top in Afghanistan in 2002.
The battle, which eventually claimed the life of colleague Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, became known as the battle of Roberts Ridge.
Slabinski, a retired Navy SEAL, was initially awarded the Navy Cross but was the award was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor, according to a review of citations for valor that was ordered in 2014 by then-Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, according to USA today.
In his speech, President Trump described Slabinski as: “A special man. A truly brave person.”
Trump further added that Slabinski’s award was “our nation’s highest military honor—and I would go so far to say our nation’s highest honor.”
The Day Slabinski Will Remember Forever
In the early morning on March 4, 2002, Slabinski and his team were attacked unexpectedly by rocket-propelled grenades and bullets while on board an insertion helicopter. Their helicopter was attempting to land on the peak of Takur Gahr, a 10,000-foot snow-covered mountain.
In an interview with Fox News, Slabinski described the moment his team was attacked. “When we landed on top of the mountain, my helicopter took rocket-propelled grenade fire right away,” Slabinski said.
“Bullets the size of your finger passing through there, those are the ones that hit hydraulic fluid, which ultimately took us out of the sky.”
Once hit, Slabinski’s helicopter staggered violently and one teammate, Navy SEAL Neil Roberts, was ejected out of the helicopter and fell onto the mountain. The helicopter crash-landed about three miles away, according to USA today.
“My teammate’s alive. I know that he is in enemy territory,” Slabinski told Fox news.
Slabinski, along with his five remaining team members, returned to then lead a rescue operation for their fallen teammate, Roberts. During this rescue mission, Slabinski and his team were attacked by a heavily armed opposition.
Slabinski “repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he engaged in a pitched, close-quarters firefight against the tenacious and more heavily armed enemy forces,” the White House said in a statement.
The White House statement added, “During reinsertion, the team came under fire from three directions, and one teammate started moving uphill toward an enemy strongpoint. Without regard for his own safety, Senior Chief Slabinski charged directly toward enemy fire to join his teammate. Together, they fearlessly assaulted and cleared the first bunker they encountered.”
Roberts, though seriously injured, was eventually rescued.
Slabinski’s team was forced down the mountainside until reinforcements arrived. During this period, which totalled 14 hours, Slabinski “stabilized casualties and continued the fight against the enemy until the hill was secured and his team was extracted,” the White House said.
Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt Slabinski, U.S. Navy, Retired, represents the best of America. He risked his life in Afghanistan as he led his team on a rescue mission on a 10,000-foot mountain through arduous conditions. Take a moment to hear his story: pic.twitter.com/E98m7Lsq40
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) May 24, 2018
A statement from the White House read: “By his undaunted courage, bold initiative, leadership, and devotion to duty, Senior Chief Slabinski reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Slabinski’s award coincides with National Military Awareness Month, when members of the U.S. Armed Forces, both former and current, are recognized for their service and sacrifice for their country.
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