Staff Sgt. James L. Wilbur, a soldier who halted an ambush of his squad in Afghanistan, said he was just in the right place at the right time to make a difference for members of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Regiment, based at Fort Benning.
"When things like this happens, it's more so just being in the right place at the right time," Wilbur said after a 10 a.m. ceremony Thursday in Marshall Auditorium at McGinnis-Wickam Hall. "It's absolutely what happened that day."
Wilbur and Staff Sgt. Scott M. Anderson were recipients of the Silver Star, the nation's third highest medal for valor.
Staff Sgt. Ryan L. Flora received the Joint Service Commendation Medal and Cpl. Ian T. Seymour was the recipient of the Army Commendation Medal. The awards recognized actions by the Rangers who returned in March from deployment.
Wilbur, 25, said the award represents the entire unit, not just one individual.
"I think when guys receive the award for valor, it lets the guys in the Army and the rest of the community know where we stand in the fight," Wilbur said. "There are guys out there making sacrifices."
Anderson, 27, said the award represents what the Rangers have accomplished over the last 16 deployments.
"Rangers are unique and have a lot of capabilities," he said. "I think, generally speaking, we play a large role in what's going on in Afghanistan and around the world."
Wilbur was part of an assault force in northern Afghanistan on April 27, 2011, when he recognized a spotter planning an ambush as the squad moved along a road clearing. After jumping over a wall, Wilbur was the target of gunfire from a machine gun and AK-47 in a compound.
Wilbur fired off 10 rounds from his rifle when one of the machine gunners pointed the weapon at him from a prone position. Enemy fire was still intense from the north and west as other soldiers cleared the room in the compound, killing three enemy fighters.
"Staff Sgt. Wilbur's actions of valor and leadership were decisive in the battle, and prevented the enemy from gaining a tactical advantage, setting up an ambush north along a main avenue or approach the assault force was traveling along," according to a statement on his actions.
Anderson was leading a squad when he learned that 10 heavily armed Taliban fighters were inside two separate compounds in northern Afghanistan on March 8, 2011. He came under machine gun and small-arms fire from five enemy fighters but returned fire with fragmentation grenades next to a doorway.
After 90 minutes of intense fighting, five enemy fighters, including two senior level Taliban commanders, were dead and one Ranger was wounded. A second Ranger was wounded by automatic weapons fire. Anderson provided gunfire cover at the enemy until the wounded Ranger was evacuated.