Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SSG Miller and the Medal of Honor

Today, President Obama bestows the nation's highest honor, posthumously, to SSG Robert Miller.  His bravery and selflessness were remarkable.  Here is an excerpt the official citation:

Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, U.S. Army, heroically distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of the enemy of the U.S. while serving as the Weapons Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force–33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Afghanistan, Forward Operating Base Naray, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

As Staff Sgt. Miller and the lead element of the patrol entered the mouth of the narrow valley, they confronted an insurgent hiding behind a large boulder. Refusing to surrender, the insurgent leaped from the boulder yelled, “Allah Akbar!” and began firing on the lead element from approximately five meters. Staff Sgt. Miller stepped forward to return fire and killed the insurgent instantly.  This contact initiated a near-ambush from a company-sized group of insurgents. The insurgent forces fired on Staff Sgt. Miller’s patrol with multiple PKM machine guns, RPGs, and AK-47 assault rifles from distances of less than 25 meters.

The patrol was completely vulnerable, in the kill zone and without cover in a complex ambush with insurgent fighting positions located to the front (East), the left (North), and the right (South).

It soon became evident that numerous insurgents occupied prepared, elevated and hardened fighting positions in the mountain rock with overhead cover along the North and South valley ridgeline. Insurgents on the valley floor to Staff Sgt. Miller’s direct front, left, and right were fighting in defilade and possessed ample cover and concealment necessary for the employment of overwhelming fires on the totally exposed patrol.

As enemy fire erupted from the high ground, Staff Sgt. Miller called out the contact report to his team members and his detachment commander located behind him. He simultaneously engaged multiple insurgent positions from a distance of approximately 15 to 20 meters.  In the face of devastating insurgent fire, the ANA located directly behind Staff Sgt. Miller broke formation and bound away downhill and out of the kill zone, leaving Staff Sgt. Miller alone and with no support in the open terrain.

To the front of Staff Sgt. Miller’s position one PKM machine gun and five AK47s were inflicting devastating hostile fire on the retreating ANA members and the remaining ODA patrol. Understanding the potential for catastrophe, Staff Sgt. Miller boldly charged the enemy and accurately engaged the entire force with his squad automatic weapon, thus eliminating the threat.  With heavy fire from insurgent forces from all sides of his position engulfing him, Staff Sgt. Miller continued to engage at least four other insurgent positions, killing or wounding at least 10 insurgents.

The darkness of the night and limited visibility made Staff Sgt. Miller’s weapon, also the most casualty producing, the greatest threat to the insurgent ambush. The highlighted muzzle flash and the distinct sound from his SAW instantly marked Staff Sgt. Miller as an easily identifiable target.

Cognizant that his vulnerability increased with every burst from his SAW, Staff Sgt. Miller continued to engage the enemy courageously drawing fire away from his team and onto his position. Within seconds, Staff Sgt. Miller began receiving a majority of the insurgents’ heavy volume of fire.  Realizing that his team was pinned down and unable to actively engage the enemy, Staff Sgt. Miller, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, continued to charge forward through the open area engaging multiple elevated insurgent positions and purposely drawing fire away from his trapped ODA members.

Staff Sgt. Miller’s cover fire was so accurate that it not only provided the necessary cover to save his team, it also suppressed the enemy to the right flank of the patrol, to the point where they could not reposition from that direction against the ODA for the duration of the engagement.  His actions single-handedly provided the needed cover fire that allowed his fellow ODA members to maneuver to covered positions as the ANA broke formation and ran away from the kill zone.

During his final charge forward, Staff Sgt. Miller threw two hand grenades into fighting positions, destroying the positions and killing or wounding an additional four insurgents. Only when Staff Sgt. Miller realized his fellow team members were out of immediate danger, and in positions to support him, did he attempt to move for cover.  As he directed his fire to engage enemy positions above him, an insurgent shot him through the right side of his upper torso under his right arm; the area not protected by his body armor. Staff Sgt. Miller immediately turned toward the enemy and shot and killed the insurgent who had wounded him. During this time, Staff Sgt. Miller’s detachment commander also sustained gunshot wounds to his upper chest and shoulder.

The perilous situation forced the detachment commander to order the ODA to fall back to cover. Staff Sgt. Miller realized his commander was seriously wounded and that, as the point man with ODA’s only SAW, he had the highest potential to inflict the most casualties on the enemy. Again, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Staff Sgt. Miller remained alone at the front of the patrol, so his team could bound back.

Ignoring the severity of his critical wound and still completely exposed to intense, direct enemy fire, Staff Sgt. Miller continued to low crawl through the snow, incessantly fighting uphill into the valley to engage insurgent positions to the East and South in order to draw fire away from his wounded commander and identify insurgent positions to his fellow ODA members.  Without his heroic efforts, his wounded commander would not have been moved safely out of the kill zone to the casualty collection point.

Throughout the engagement, the insurgent fire around Staff Sgt. Miller was so intense that his fellow team members could not see him due to the dust, debris, and RPG and small arms fire impacting around him. During the ensuing 25-minute battle, Staff Sgt. Miller was mortally wounded by a second gunshot to his upper torso under his left arm. Despite suffering a second and fatal wound, Staff Sgt. Miller remained steadfast and continued his selfless acts of heroism. He provided essential disposition and location reports of insurgent actions and he relentlessly fired his SAW until he expended all of his ammunition and threw his final hand grenade.

At the first opportunity, members of Staff Sgt. Miller’s team bound up to his position to render aid and recover him. Enemy reinforcements overwhelmed the recovery team with direct fire causing the team to seek cover. During the recovery attempt, the enemy’s precision was clearly evident as team members sustained multiple hits from small arms fire to their body armor and equipment.

Approximately an hour and 45 minutes later, a quick reaction force arrived, which allowed the ODA to lead a patrol back into the valley to recover Staff Sgt. Miller. As a testament of the enemy’s tenacity, the quick reaction force sent to assist with recovery operations sustained additional casualties from intense direct RPG and small arms fire. Because of the enemy’s dominance of the terrain and potential for loss of additional lives, the patrol was forced to use its second CCP and two MEDVACs.

The entire battle lasted nearly seven hours.

Post-battle intelligence reports indicate that in excess of 140 insurgents participated in the ambush, more than 40 were killed and over 60 were wounded. Staff Sgt. Miller is credited with killing more than 16 and wounding over 30 insurgents. His valor under fire from a numerically superior force, complete selflessness and disregard for his own life, combined with his unmatched ability to accurately identify and engage insurgent positions, allowed his patrol to move to the safety of covered positions.

Staff Sgt. Miller chose to remain in the fight and provide vital suppressive fires to his teammates in order to save their lives, while disregarding his own mortality.

Staff Sgt. Miller’s selfless acts saved the lives of his seven of his ODA members and 15 Afghan soldiers. As a result of Staff Sgt. Miller’s heroic actions, the Gowardesh Insurgency was dealt a crippling blow, decimating insurgent forces involved in the battle, and shattering their morale and confidence. Staff Sgt. Miller’s actions exemplify the honored tradition of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, Special Operations Task Force–33, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Afghanistan, Special Operations Command Central, and the U.S. Army.

Rest in peace, SSG Miller.  You represent our very best.  Your country thanks you.

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