Battling insurgents hiding in fortified bunkers, Staff Sgt. Corey Calkins led a group of Afghan soldiers over a road littered with bombs and into a hail of gunfire.
A month later, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Myers ran up and down a trapped convoy amid a barrage of enemy fire to find a way to escape an ambush.
Both soldiers, members of the 3rd Special Forces Group, received the nation's second-highest military award for valor -- the Distinguished Service Cross -- at a ceremony Tuesday on Fort Bragg.
Adm. William McRaven, the head of Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., pinned the medals on the Green Berets, who were honored for putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan in early 2010.
"Every soldier that steps onto the battlefield today hopes and prays he can live up to the expectations of his country," McRaven said.
He said Myers and Calkins exceeded those expectations and cemented their place among legendary heroes of the Green Berets.
"It is an absolutely normal impulse to move away from danger," McRaven said. "And yet every man who wears the Green Beret moves toward the sound of danger."
Myers "did what no normal man would do," McRaven said. Calkins was "so heroic, so inspiring, that he also stands with the giants of the Special Forces regiment."
On Feb. 18, 2010, Calkins was serving as the sole combat adviser to a group of 69 Afghan soldiers in Marjah in Helmand province when they came under attack by enemy forces. Calkins inspired his men, who had originally refused to cross a road laden with bombs, to overrun the enemy positions and pursue the insurgents.
Calkins later continued his assault after a group of Marine explosive ordnance technicians were injured by a bomb blast, clearing the way for helicopters to evacuate two Americans who had been killed and another three who were seriously wounded.
The next month, on March 27, 2010, Myers took charge during an ambush in Paktika province that came near the end of a seven-day patrol across three districts and eight villages.
His convoy was traveling on a crude, winding, single-lane road carved into the side of a canyon when it came under attack by more than 100 enemy fighters. Myers left the safety of his armored vehicle to direct the Afghan National Police and help clear several disabled vehicles from the path.
As trees exploded in a hail of bullets and shrapnel tore into his hands and legs, Myers repeatedly ran between the vehicles during the 19 minutes that it took air support to arrive.
Both men were previously awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest award for valor, for their actions.
Despite their accolades, the men deflected their honor to their teammates.
Calkins is a member of Operational Detachment Alpha 3121. Myers is the assistant commander for Operational Detachment 3321.
"I only have my leadership to thank," Calkins said. "You just revert back to what you were trained to do. Anyone else would have performed to the same standard."
Myers said it was humbling to have his actions held up as an example by McRaven.
He said time seemed to slow during the ambush, and he thought the firefight lasted much longer than 19 minutes.
The families of both men traveled from out of state for the ceremony. Myers is from Lewisburg, Pa., and Calkins is from Midland, Mich.
The men, who received boxes of cigars from McRaven, are the first in the 3rd Special Forces Group to receive the Distinguished Service Cross.
The medal is second only to the Medal of Honor in prestige.
"It seems kind of strange that I'd be here," Myers said. "There's a lot of heroes in 3rd Group."