An Army Special Forces soldier will receive the Medal of Honor for fighting through an enemy ambush and saving his teammates’ lives 10 years ago in Afghanistan, the White House announced in late September.
Former Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II, who had already received a Silver Star for his actions, was honored with the nation’s highest award for valor by President Donald Trump during an Oct. 1 ceremony at the White House. Shurer served as a Special Forces medic with 3rd Special Forces Group.
Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Dec. 7, 1978. The son of airmen, Shurer lived in Illinois and Idaho before his family was stationed at McChord Air Force Base, Washington. Shurer attended Rogers High School in Puyallup, Washington, where he was a member of the swim team and participated in triathlons and cycling.
Following his high school graduation in 1997, Shurer attended Washington State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business economics. Later that year, he enrolled in a master’s degree program at Washington State.
After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Shurer was inspired to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, grandfather and parents by serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Shurer entered the U.S. Army in 2002 and was assigned to the 601st Area Support Medical Company, 261st Area Medical Battalion, 44th Medical Command, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In January 2004, he entered Special Forces selection and reported to the Special Forces Qualification Course in June. After donning his green beret, Shurer was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group in June 2006. Shurer deployed to Afghanistan from August 2006 to March 2007, and again from October 2007 to May 2008.
On April 6, 2008, Shurer and his team were assigned to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley, according to the Army.
In a moment of the above-mentioned action, he was a Senior Medical Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, Special Operations Task Force-33, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Then-Staff Sergeant Shurer and his team were engaged by enemy machine gun, sniper, and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The lead portion of the assault element sustained several casualties and became pinned down on the mountainside. Then-Staff Sergeant Shurer braved enemy fire to treat an injured Soldier. After stabilizing the Soldier, he fought his way across a barrage of bullets and up the mountain to the lead element.
Once there, he treated and stabilized four more Soldiers. After treating the wounded, then-Staff Sergeant Shurer began evacuating them, carrying and lowering the casualties down the mountainside, using his body to shield them from enemy fire and debris. After he loaded the wounded in the evacuation helicopter, he retook control of his commando squad and rejoined the fight. Then-Staff Sergeant Shurer’s heroic actions saved the lives of his teammates.
Today, he lives in Burke, Virginia, with his wife and two sons. After Army career, he went on to serve with the Secret Service, working as a special agent assigned to the Phoenix Field Office before being selected for the agency’s Counter Assault Team and assigned to its Special Operations Division.
Redemption: How an addict became a Navy SEAL and a nightmare for the Taliban
The biographies of most Navy SEALs probably don’t include a rap sheet — theft, possession of meth, possession of crack, and so on. But if there’s ever been a story of redemption through continued hard work and perseverance, it belongs to Adam Brown. Facing 11 felony drug and weapons charges after being found in a pool of his own blood, he opted into a drug rehab program — which only worked for a short while.
Author: Blake Stilwell (We Are The Mighty)
His best chance at turning his life around came in the form of a SEAL trident.
Brown’s life began like so many other good-ol’ American boys before him. The Arkansas native was a straight-A student and star football player. He was kind, respectful to his elders, and always ready for goodnatured fun. It wasn’t until he met an old flame that his descent into addiction began. She had a drug habit and, though Brown enjoyed a drink, he wasn’t inclined toward anything harder than that. Eventually, his girlfriend wore him down and he was hooked after one hit of crack-cocaine.
From there, he devolved into injecting it into his veins. Then, he began to try other drugs. Eventually, he could only be found on the floors of crack houses. He hit rock bottom when the girl who helped get him hooked eventually left and he began stabbing himself in the neck with a knife. When police found him, he was laying in a pool of his own blood. That’s when they discovered all his outstanding warrants. Facing massive jail time and a family that was done with his addictive behaviors, the judge gave him the choice: rehab or jail.
It was in rehab that Brown gave his life over to Christianity and met his soon-to-be wife, also a fervent believer. The two were happy, but Brown soon regressed. After a short disappearance, his new bride found him in a crack house. Addiction is a viscous and persistent curse, and this same scenario repeated itself until his new love threatened to leave.
By 1998, he knew he had to do something, so he stopped into a recruiter’s office after finding out a friend was joining the Navy as an aviator. The recruiter balked when Brown revealed his drug use and rap sheet, but Brown had a friend in a high place: the highest-ranking recruiting officer in the region. He vouched for Brown, who was almost immediately shipped out to basic training.
He showed up with just the clothes on his back and went straight for SEAL training.
“The training awakened in Adam the psycho who never quit,” Eric Blehm, author of ‘Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown’ told Investors Business Daily. “He also had Kelley [his wife] and his faith, which gave him a refuge and a shield of strength.”
He was sent to SEAL Team Four, where he ended up with a knife in his eye due to a training accident. He covered the wound and continued on, eventually having to have the eye stitched up due to a loss of blood. He later lost his right eye — his dominant eye — during a room-clearing exercise and still he pressed on. He just learned to shoot with his left eye in SEAL sniper school.
Even with a 50-percent washout rate among those with two eyes, Adam Brown succeeded. He decided he wanted to join what he thought was the best of the best: SEAL Team Six. While waiting for the right time to train with SEAL Team Six, he took a deployment to Afghanistan in 2005, where a freak convoy accident left his right hand mangled and missing fingers. Instead of tending to his own wounds, he tended to others and pulled security until the last casualty was evacuated from the site.
With his dominant eye and his dominant hand both out, Brown did exactly what you’d expect him to do: he simply learned to work with his other hand. For a year, he made history as the only SEAL to ever attempt (let alone pass) the training with only one eye. And he was shooting almost-perfect scores.
By November, 2006, Brown was Chief Petty Officer Brown and the following years saw more hardship and deployments for the SEAL. He bore the pain of arthritis, a bad back, a broken leg, and surgery on both ankles so he could return to combat duty. He deployed to Afghanistan’s Kunar Valley and to the cities and villages all over Iraq, going on nightly raids chasing IED bomb-makers. Brown was only 33.
His final deployment came in March of 2010. Their mission was to kill or capture a high-value Taliban leader, code-named Objective Lake James. Just like the bomb-makers in Iraq, the target was responsible for the deaths of many American and NATO soldiers. Flying into the mountains of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush via Chinook Helicopter, Brown and the other STS SEALs fast-roped into the area and humped to a nearby village.
As the SEALs approached a stronghold, they managed to silently take out an enemy sentry, but another fired at the SEALs with his AK-47. As the area opened up with small arms fire, the SEAL Team needed to get a grenade in a nearby window. It was close, but not close enough to throw one in. As Brown made his way around with a grenade launcher, shots rang out to his left, riddling the determined SEAL with bullets. He was hit in both legs. Once he was down, other enemy positions poured bullets toward him.
His fellow SEALs got him out of the line of fire, but it would not be enough to save Adam Brown’s life. He died later that day, back at the base.
Though Brown’s story ends in his tragic death, it’s nonetheless a story about the power of human will in overcoming any challenge. Brown showed us that you can always shape your life in any way you want, and all it takes is the love and support of your family, friends, and the people who will always have your back. Fearless is a fitting name for his story – there was nothing in life that Adam Brown couldn’t overcome to shape his own destiny.
Read about Brown’s struggle against addiction along with all his combat successes and failures in Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown, by Eric Blehm.
Pilot was awarded Silver Star for his actions during Delta Force raid on ISIS
An Army helicopter pilot kept flying for five hours in support of a Delta Force ground raid into Syria in 2014, even after he was wounded by gunfire during the initial assault, according to new documents released by the Department of Defense (DoD).
Then-Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Siler piloted one of two MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator helicopters (DAPS) on a “mission deep inside enemy territory” during a classified nighttime mission by 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta in July 2014.
Siler was the lead pilot during the 10-hour-long raid, which he “meticulously planned and flawlessly executed.”
The new details emerged from the award citation for his Silver Star, which Siler received later that month in addition to the Purple Heart for combat wounds. It was recently released in response to a Freedom of Information Request from Business Insider.
Delta Force enters Syria with ‘zero illumination’
After receiving the go-ahead from President Barack Obama, the Army’s elite Delta Force loaded into helicopters piloted by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) during the late and early morning hours of July 2 and 3, 2014 to find and rescue journalist James Foley and other hostages taken by ISIS.
The raid into northern Syria happened in pitch black “zero illumination” — perfect conditions for pilots attempting to stealthily insert troops, both of whom were outfitted with sophisticated night vision goggles. Still, the citation notes the flight encountered “harsh environmental conditions” without getting into specifics.
In what was described by officials speaking to The New York Times as a “complicated operation,” several helicopters dropped off two dozen Delta operators at an oil refinery outside Raqqa, while heavily-armed DAPS helicopters circled overhead to provide air support.
Siler was shot in his right leg by ground fire during the initial assault, according to his citation and other media reports. He was on crutches and wore a walking cast at his award ceremony.
“Staying in the air with a wounded leg for five hours is no small feat, whether or not he’s on the controls,” another Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot told Business Insider. “That is pretty heroic.”
According to the pilot, who spoke on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak, a gunshot wound to the leg would make it very difficult for Siler to manipulate his foot pedals, which control the yaw of the aircraft. That’s not to mention “the loss of blood and the shattered leg,” the pilot said. “The sheer pain of that.”
The pilot speculated that the copilot likely took control of the aircraft at that point, while Siler tended to his wounds, helped direct fire, and navigated.
Meanwhile, as drones and fixed-wing aircraft flew overhead, the team of soldiers on the ground moved quickly into the safe house where James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and other hostages were believed to be held. But the operators found only ISIS fighters, two of which were quickly dispatched in a gunfight, according to The New Yorker.
“By the time we got there, it was too late,” a Pentagon official told The New York Times in 2014.
We moved ‘aggressively to recover our citizens’
Although the raid did not result in the rescue of Americans from ISIS captivity, it was notable in that it was the first time the government acknowledged U.S. troops had operated inside Syria since the war began in 2012, the New York Times Times reported.
“The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens,” Lisa Monaco, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, told The Times.
After the area was secure, the Delta operators gathered up anything that could yield intelligence or forensic value, according to The New Yorker. After about an hour, they departed on Black Hawks back to an unspecified “neighboring country.”
The secret mission was made public more than a month later on Aug. 20, 2014, a day after ISIS posted a video showing the beheading of Foley by a masked man later identified as Mohammed Emwazi. The British-born ISIS militant carried out the executions of many American, British, and other hostages throughout 2014 and 2015 until he was killed by a coalition drone strike in Nov. 2015.
Siler, now a Chief Warrant Officer-5, still serves with the 160th at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, according to an Army spokesman. He was recognized as the Army Aviator of the Year in 2014.
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