The Marine Corps Times reported that a Marine Raider received the Silver Star on Friday, April 6 for actions during the attack on Hotel Radisson Blu in Bamako, Mali, on November 20, 2015. The Raider was credited for preparing his team to rescue Americans and other hostages at the hotel when terrorists from AQIM attacked. The medal was awarded in a closed door ceremony at Camp LeJeune. His name is being withheld for operational security.
Army Gen. Tony Thomas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command awarded the medal. The Silver Star is the nation’s third highest medal for valor.
Mali is considered an extremely dangerous assignment due to the prevalence of terrorists. American military deployed there are reportedly only small contingents of Special Operators and intelligence officers to help with French counterterrorism operations. AQIM, or Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, has been prevalent in terror attacks in Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Mali, Niger, Libya, Mauritania, and Tunisia, according to counterextremism.com.
November 20, 2015
The medal recipient was serving as a senior leader of a Marine Raider unit assigned to Mali’s capital when they learned of the attack on the hotel. The Radisson Blu hotel was a popular spot for diplomats and westerners.
“There was very little time to respond. We fell back on what we had prepared for. There were points in which the situation became more intense, ambiguous and scary. At times, the situation we faced was confusing and difficult. However, our purpose was clear. That clarity and unity of purpose allowed us to navigate the ambiguity and manage our emotions to accomplish the mission at hand.”
The team navigated their way through “small arms fire” and “grenades” to rescue 150 of the 170 hostages.
“Every American we found and pulled out of the hotel only increased my desire to keep going. Every time the smoke cleared a little more, I felt both exposed and enabled.”
At one point, a team member tripped when a sudden burst of machine gun fire erupted from a stairwell. But the team members surrounded him and laid down covering fire to rescue him. The team leader called it a “defining moment” in life where he felt like he was exactly where he belonged.
Five American Defense Department officials were caught up in the drama that day. They were all accounted for after the situation was cleared.
The victims can easily say, “Thank God for the US Marines.”
Featured photo: “A critical skills operator with 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Raider Regiment receives the Silver Star aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 6. (Sgt. Janessa K. Pon/Marine Corps)”