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1st Special Forces Group soldiers awarded Silver Stars at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

12 soldiers received Army valor awards for recent fighting in Afghanistan

Chief Warrant Officer Mark Colbert and Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Busic each received a Silver Star in a 1st Special Forces Group (A) valor award ceremony Thursday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Gail Wood

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While under a surprise enemy attack in August 2013, Mark Colbert and Andrew Busic risked their lives during an intense, face-to-face skirmish in Afghanistan, saving the lives of fellow soldiers and civilians.

In recognition of their heroic actions, Chief Warrant Officer Mark Colbert and Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Busic were awarded Thursday the Silver Star Medal, the third highest U.S. combat award.

With bullets zinging overhead and grenades exploding close by, Busic said his years of training took over, overriding fear. He was prepared for that moment.

"Army training prepares you for a lot," said Busic. "At that point in time when you have that amount of action going on, you revert back to what you've been trained on. You train enough it becomes muscle memory. So you end up not having to think about it."

In addition to the two Silver Stars, 10 other soldiers received medals as the 1st Special Forces Group conducted a Valor Award ceremony in the Carey Theater at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

>>> Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Busic receives Silver Star for defending NATO base in Afghanistan. Photo credit: Gail Wood

"It's no easy choice to do what they've done," said Brig. Gen. Darsie Rogers, commander of the U.S. Special Forces Command. "The hard part is to act. These men made that choice. We're lucky to have men like you."

Andrew Nivala, Aaron Hammond, Joseph Joo, Kristopher Xaros and Alexander Hain all received the Bronze Star, the military's fourth highest honor. Five soldiers received the Army Commendation Medal for heroic acts. They were Coltin Bauder, Joshua Waisanen, Brian Culver, Kirk Medina and Vincent Walker.

"Without regard to themselves, they took heroic actions," Rogers said.

During a Taliban suicide attack on the forward operating base in the Ghazni Providence on the afternoon of Aug. 28, 2013, Busic, a sergeant first class, and Colbert, a chief warrant officer, stopped 10 insurgents wearing suicide vests and carrying small arms, grenades and grenade launchers. Hearing a 4,000-pound bomb detonate followed by gun fire, Busic and Colbert quickly drove to the breach point.

While approaching, Busic's vehicle, a Toyota pickup with armor protection on the front and back, drew heavy small arms fire and grenade blasts. Busic ran from the vehicle as he returned fire, providing cover and forcing the insurgents to fall back. Seeking cover, Busic then got in an intense exchange with three insurgents just 15 feet away. In this exchange, Busic was wounded from grenade blasts and a suicide vest explosion.

Busic's quick thinking and action prevented any more insurgents from entering. Although bleeding and wounded with shrapnel injuries, Busic continued to lead a methodical clearance of the area. Busic's fearless leadership was directly responsible for protecting more than 1,400 personnel on the forward operating base.

Facing heavy fire, Colbert, while on foot, encountered six more insurgents wearing ANA uniforms. When a soldier with him was wounded, Colbert, rather than ducking for cover, pulled the soldier to cover, saving his life.

"We came around a corner together and we took fire from them," Colbert said. "We were five to 10 meters from them.

Despite taking a bullet in the leg in that encounter, Colbert rejoined the fight and led a counter attack. One insurgent, who was 10 feet from Colbert, rolled a grenade toward them and then detonated his suicide vest. But Colbert escaped serious injury and continued to lead the counter attack.

Colbert's courageous leadership, valiant actions and calm demeanor during adversity above and beyond the call of duty prevented the ground assault from penetrating the interior of the FOB.

Colbert's and Busic's heroic efforts saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers, coalition partners and civilians.

"I don't think I was hero," Busic said. "All of us did our job. We were at the right place at the right time."

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