Active-Duty Green Beret to Receive Medal of Honor for Heroic Afghanistan Rescue

Master Sgt. Matthew Williams (U.S. Army)
Master Sgt. Matthew Williams (U.S. Army)

The White House announced today that President Trump will award the nation's highest award for valor to a Green Beret for risking his life under intense enemy fire to rescue wounded Special Forces soldiers during a 2008 joint raid with U.S. troops and Afghan commandos.

In an Oct. 30 ceremony, Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Master Sgt. Matthew Williams, who served as a weapons sergeant in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 during the April 6, 2008 operation, according to a White House news release.

The award is an upgrade for Williams; he was previously presented the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest combat award, for his heroism. His medal is being upgraded as part of a Pentagon-wide review of valor medals awarded after Sept. 11, 2001, officials said.

The Boerne, Texas native led an Afghan commando element across a "fast-moving, ice cold, and waist-deep river to fight its way up a terraced mountain to the besieged lead element of the assault force," according to the release.

Enemy rocket-propelled grenade, sniper, and machine gun fire rained down on Williams and the Afghans as he moved the unit to a position where it could gain fire superiority over the enemy, the release states.

"When his team sergeant was wounded by sniper fire, Sergeant Williams exposed himself to enemy fire to come to his aid and to move him down the sheer mountainside to the casualty collection point," according to the release.

Williams then braved enemy small arms fire and climbed back up the cliff to evacuate other injured soldiers and repair the team's satellite radio.

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While under heavy enemy fire, Williams helped move casualties down the near vertical mountainside and loaded them on to evacuation helicopters, according to the release.

"His complete disregard for his own safety and concern for the safety of his teammates ensured the survival of four critically wounded soldiers and prevented the lead element of the assault force from being overrun by the enemy," Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command, said in a separate statement.

Williams joins an elite group. He would be the 14th living Medal of Honor recipient from the war in Afghanistan and the 10th from the Army.

He would also be one of the only Medal of Honor recipients still on active duty. Edward Byers, who continued to work as a Navy SEAL after receiving the military's highest award in 2016, retired last month at age 40. Army Maj. Will Swenson, who received the medal in 2013, returned to active duty in 2014. It's unclear if he remains in uniform.

Williams graduated from Angelo State University with a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and then enlisted the Army under the 18X Special Forces enlistment program in September 2005, Bymer said in a SOCOM release.

After completing Infantry One Station Unit Training, Williams attended Basic Airborne Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Williams then attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection in 2006 and was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course, Bymer said.

In 2007, Williams graduated as a weapons sergeant from the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Throughout his career, Williams has deployed multiple times to Afghanistan and Africa, serving in numerous positions, including weapons sergeant, Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd SFG (A); senior weapons sergeant, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd SFG (A); senior instructor/writer, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group; senior weapons sergeant, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion 3rd SFG (A) and operations sergeant, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion 3rd SFG (A), according to Bymer.

Williams' previous awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and four Loops, Valorous Unit Award, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge and Special Forces Tab, according to Bymer.

Williams is currently assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, according to the White House. When off duty, he enjoys hunting and spending time with his wife, Kate, and their son, Nolan.

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

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