Family of Green Beret Killed in Niger Ambush Receives His Silver Star

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright (Image: U.S. Army)
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright (Image: U.S. Army)

The Army on Wednesday awarded a posthumous Silver Star to a 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldier for sacrificing his life for his fellow soldiers in an October 2017 ambush in Niger.

Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright's family accepted the nation's third-highest award for valor at a ceremony in Santa Claus, Georgia, honoring the Green Beret's disregard for his own safety while fighting alongside his team during a fierce Oct. 4, 2017, gun battle that killed four Special Forces soldiers.

The Army also plans to award Sgt. La David Johnson with a posthumous Silver Star on Friday for his actions during the ambush, according to Capt. Richard Dickson, a spokesman for 3rd Special Forces Group.

"Valor award ceremonies will be taking place in multiple locations to honor the service and sacrifice of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldiers who acted valiantly during the ambush in Tongo Tongo, Niger, on October 4, 2017," according to a statement from 3rd Special Forces Group. "We will be forever indebted to these brave men who sacrificed so much while defending this nation and fighting to bring peace and stability to the downtrodden in forgotten corners of the globe."

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The Army recently awarded Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson with a posthumous Bronze Star with Valor device for his heroism during the battle, a vicious firefight that resulted in allegations that the dozen members of the Operational Detachment Alpha Team 3212 and 34 Nigerien troops were sent on a poorly planned mission to capture a suspected terrorist leader. The investigation that followed resulted in disciplinary actions taken against nine individuals.

After failing to locate the terrorist leader, the joint, mounted patrol was about 120 miles from its base camp when it was attacked by a large enemy force.

The embattled team tried to outflank the enemy and sweep the tree line but was repulsed and forced to retreat, according to an official account in an unclassified, eight-page summary of a classified 3,600-page Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation ordered by Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, then-head of U.S. Africa Command, and led by his chief of staff, Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier.

Soon, the fighting became more intense as enemy fighters on motorcycles moved in closer to attack, according to the summary.

The Americans and their Nigerien partners fought bravely, but it became clear they were greatly outnumbered, according to the summary. It added that the first call for air support came 53 minutes after the ambush began.

According to Wright's award citation, he maneuvered multiple times across open terrain through heavy enemy fire to "protect and recover two of his fallen comrades."

The first of the two to go down was Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, who was killed instantly, according to the investigation summary, which described how Wright and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson ran to Black's side while firing back at the enemy.

While trying to pull back, Sgt. 1st Class Johnson was severely wounded, the summary states. Wright stopped and ran back to his comrade and continued to fight by his side until both were killed by enemy fire, according to the summary.

Wright, a 30-year-old native of Vidalia, Georgia, enlisted in the Army in July 2012 as an 18X Special Forces Candidate attending One-Station Unit Training and Basic Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, according to his official Army bio.

After completing Airborne School, Wright moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to attend Special Forces Assessment and Selection and completed the Special Forces Qualification Course, his bio states.

Upon earning his Green Beret in July 2014, Wright was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, as a Special Forces engineering sergeant.

Wright's awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with C Device, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Niger Cross of Valor with Star, Special Forces Tab, Parachutist Badge, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

-- Military.com's Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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