Bragg Captain Gets Silver Star for Firefight

The morning of May 4, 2010, began ominously in the village of Hendor in Afghanistan's Laghman province.

As the soldiers of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 and their Afghan partners moved into the village of about 800, they noticed that no one was home.

"There were no farmers, no women, no livestock," said team leader Capt. Tim Driscoll. "It was a ghost town, basically. As soon as the sun went up, I knew it would be a long day."

The town had been emptied, officials said, in preparation for an ambush on the coalition force.

Driscoll was honored Thursday with a Silver Star -- the military's third highest award for valor -- for his actions on May 4, 2010.

He led a joint force of about 90 Special Forces soldiers and Afghan commandos during a 10-hour firefight in which they were surrounded by nearly 100 enemy fighters shooting from heavily fortified positions.

More than 40 other Green Berets with the 3rd Special Forces Group also were honored for actions in Afghanistan. Seven soldiers received Bronze Star Medals with Valor devices, 17 were awarded Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices and 14 received Purple Hearts.

Driscoll and the other soldiers were presented their honors by Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, commanding general of Army Special Operations Command, in the John F. Kennedy Auditorium on Fort Bragg.

The May 4, 2010, air assault on Hendor, nicknamed Objective Mudslide, was part of a larger operation across Afghanistan planned ahead of a meeting of Afghan officials in Kabul in the summer of 2010, according to officials.

The mission for ODA 3336 was to clear the village, known to house insurgents who often targeted nearby Highway 1 with improvised explosive devices.

Driscoll said some believe the mission was compromised and insurgents were tipped off about the assault, giving them time to clear the village without the military noticing.

The team first learned of the coming ambush in the hours before sunlight, after arriving outside the village on the backs of several CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

That's when they first intercepted communications between insurgents hidden in caves and behind rock walls discussing plans to unleash a barrage of machine gun and sniper fire.

Driscoll repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire during the 10-hour battle in order to draw the insurgent cross hairs away from his men, said his team sergeant, Master Sgt. Sean Berk.

Berk described the battle during the ceremony, detailing how the soldiers traversed the rocky, steep terrain all while facing withering fire from well-entrenched insurgents.

By 7 a.m., the soldiers were surrounded, and two Afghan commandos had been killed, Berk said.

"Every alley was a potential death trap," he added.

Following Thursday's ceremony, Driscoll described the village as a hornet's nest.

He said he thought little during the firefight and instead operated on autopilot.

"At that time, it was just the mission," he said. "You don't think about it."

Driscoll praised the soldiers on his team, saying each and every one of them did their job and performed above and beyond what was asked of them.

"Enough can't be said," he said.

With mounting casualties during the battle, Driscoll was among several heroes in ODA 3336 that day.

Two medics, Staff Sgts. Grant H. Derrick and Justin A Schafer, have previously received Silver Stars for their actions that day, which included them using their own bodies as shields to protect an injured Afghan commando who had been shot in the head and thigh.

Berk said Driscoll and others repeatedly exposed themselves to draw fire away from a landing zone used to evacuate the injured and drove back the enemy despite being dehydrated and surrounded.

By the time the firefight was over, the soldiers were desperately low on ammunition and had been without water for the entire ordeal.

Everyone on the team has received at least a Bronze Star for the battle, Berk said.

Col. Mark C. Schwartz, who presided over the ceremony as commander of the 3rd Special Forces Group, said the ceremony marked a historic moment for the Green Berets.

"These men have absolutely performed beyond what was expected of them in close combat," he said.

Mulholland agreed, but added that each and every soldier would contend that he was "just doing my job."

"You're right," Mulholland said, "but you're doing that job to an exceptional level."

"Normal human instinct is to avoid danger," the general added. "That is not what the men of the green beret do."

Objective Mudslide's 10-hour firefight was one of many for ODA 3336, Berk said.

In their eight-month deployment in 2010, the Special Forces team was in nearly three dozen firefights, he said.

The team has since received more than 40 valor awards and is the most decorated team in Special Forces, Berk said.

"From 2008 to 2010, we accounted for a quarter of all Silver Stars for Afghanistan," he said, including an earlier deployment in which the team made history when ig received the most Silver Stars ever for one battle for an operation in Afghanistan's Shok Valley.

For Objective Mudslide alone, members of ODA 3336 have received three Silver Stars, and the team's Air Force combat controller, Capt. Barry Crawford, was awarded the Air Force Cross.

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