The Army recently awarded six 4th Infantry Division soldiers with combat awards for responding to an Oct. 18 insider attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan that left two, high-ranking Afghan officials dead.
At a June 11 ceremony at Fort Carson, Colorado, Army Spcs. Jacob Shontz and Joseph Smith were awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor device while 1st Lt. Cooper Lemons, Sgt. 1st Class John Ballenger, Staff Sgt. Timme Jones, and Spc. Benaiah Wiedenhoft were awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Combat device. The awards were presented for the soldiers’ “heroic actions” while serving as protection for senior U.S. and Afghan officials at the provincial governor’s compound, according to a recent Army press release.
On the day of the attack, the six soldiers, who were assigned to Alpha "Arrowhead" Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry regiment, had been pulling security for hours when the shooting started.
"I remember myself and my platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Ballenger, pulling security on the tower across from the (helicopter landing zone) and seeing everyone coming out of the building," Spc. Joseph Smith, a combat medic, said in the release.
"Then, all of a sudden, I heard a shot pop, and all we could see were people trying to take cover."
A Taliban member had infiltrated Afghan security forces and was carrying out an insider attack, according to the release.
"These soldiers, acting as guardian angels, remained standing and returned fire to eliminate the threat," Col. Dave Zinn, then commander of 2nd IBCT and deputy commander for Train, Advise and Assist Command-South, said in the release.
"They secured the chaotic scene and rendered medical aid to the wounded, organized the evacuation of senior U.S. and Afghan officials, called in a medevac helicopter, and prepared their convoy for movement out of the city."
The attack claimed the lives of a legendary Afghan police general and the local intelligence chief.
Two Americans were wounded, as well as a non-U.S. contractor. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin "Scott" Miller, attended the meeting but was unharmed in the incident.
Smith remembers treating both U.S. and Afghan casualties.
"Instincts kind of just took over, it felt surreal," Smith in the release. "I took a deep breath and started treating and prioritizing those around me."
Because of the actions of the soldiers, all casualties were evacuated to the NATO Role III medical facility to receive further medical aid, the release states.
"My deepest admiration will always be with the Arrowhead soldiers who selflessly and courageously demonstrated their character, resiliency and their expertise under fire at the governor's palace on that day," Zinn said in the release.
— Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.