EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - The bravery and heroism of 12 soldiers assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was recognized in a ceremony held October 8, 2014 on the group's compound located on Eglin Air Force Base in Northwest Florida.
Soldiers and families of the group, Congressman Jeff Miller, Representative of Florida's 1st Congressional District and leaders from local communities gathered in the unit's Liberty Chapel to witness the presentation of two Soldier's Medals, four Bronze Star Medals with V device for valor and six Army Commendation Medals with V device for valor.
October 8, 2014 - U.S. Army Sgt. Carlos Torres, right, is pinned the Soldier's Medal by Brig. Gen. Michael Turello, deputy commander of the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) (Provisional). Torres, a resident of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., rescued an incapacitated soldier from a burning vehicle while the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was stationed at Fort Bragg. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Corey Vandiver)
"These awards represent the heroes that walk the hallways of these buildings every day. These are elite soldiers that represent the Army Values in everything that they do,” said Lt. Col. Raphael Rodriguez, commander of the group's first battalion and of two soldiers being honored. “Special Forces is filled with quiet professionals that do their job without seeking credit, so when the opportunity presents itself to recognize these soldiers, it is absolutely deserved.”
The awards presented at the ceremony recognized soldiers for their actions at Fort Bragg, N.C., prior to the group's Defense Base Closure and Realignment and Commission mandated move to Eglin AFB and for actions in combat in Afghanistan against Taliban and Haqqani insurgents.
“This morning we have warriors representing the highest caliber in the ranks of our Special Forces Regiment. There is a common thread in each of these citations; all these men placed not only the mission, but their fellow soldier above their own concern,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Turello, Deputy Commander of the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) (Provisional). “Acts of extraordinary heroism are not planned, ordered or commanded. They are acts given freely by the soldier to their teammates on their left and right and for the success of the mission.”
Staff Sgt. Christopher Cummings, a native of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Sgt. Carlos Torres, a resident of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, were both presented with the Soldier's Medal. In 2011, while the 7th SFG (A) was still headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C., Cummings and Carlos observed a car engulfed in flames in a parking lot near their barracks. Approaching the vehicle, they observed a fellow soldier was still inside, but unresponsive. Risking their personal safety, they broke a window of the vehicle and removed the soldier from the burning vehicle before administering first aid.
Eleven of the soldiers presented with awards for valor deployed with the group's third battalion to Afghanistan's southern region as members of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan, headquartered on Bagram Airfield in the country's Parwan province. Another soldier awarded for valor deployed to Afghanistan with the group's first battalion previously than the others.
Members of the third battalion were responsible for special operations in Afghanistan's southern region near Kandahar from the Fall of 2013 to late Spring of 2014. Their efforts, said Turello, were critical to the peaceful Afghan Presidential elections and their unprecedented voter participation. The battalion also continued in its mission to train, advise and assist Afghan Security Forces, helping them to build units capable of independent operations and logistics said Turello.
“The awards that they are receiving are indicative of those that serve to the left and right of them, their unit, this organization and our Army as a whole. The way I look at our men and women... you're our country's national treasure, you're the future of our nation. Every day, as the only force operating out there in the battle space...our men and women did incredible things, building partner capacity, building our partner's ability to close with and destroy the enemy, and individually and as [Special Forces] teams...kill the enemy,” Col. Christopher Riga, Commander of the 7th SFG (A).
“There's a lot of fighting that is still going on in Afghanistan that is going to continue. We're still going to continue to build capacity and work with our partners. We're still going to continue to kill the enemy, until we are told to leave,” concluded Riga. “I can't tell you how proud I am, how honored I am of everyone in this room.”
By U.S. Army Capt. Thomas Cieslak
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