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MSG Brendan O'Connor - Someone You Should Know

Posted By Blackfive • [May 02, 2008]

Every single man in the fight described below displayed uncommon valor and extreme acts of courage...LL sends this story:

On June 22, 2006, a patrol of nine Special Forces soldiers (2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group) leading a team of eight American and forty eight Afghan soldiers, were moving through a village about twelve miles southwest of Kandahar.  Their mission, Operation Kaika, was to capture or kill a Taliban commander.

The SF Soldiers set up a patrol base and entered the village at dusk on the 23rd.  What they didn't know was that the village housed a compound of several hundred Taliban armed to the teeth, and they were waiting to ambush the Americans.  The Taliban had set up a perfect Little Bighorn scenario.

At dusk, the Taliban began an assault on the American patrol base.  First, mortars began landing inside the perimeter and then a full-on assault began.  Once the Taliban penetrated the perimeter, the SF Team Leader, Captain Sheffield Ford, called in an air strike to drive them back.  The enemy inside the wire were driven back, but the entire patrol base was surrounded.

The SF Soldiers suspected that the Taliban command and control center was located in or near the town graveyard less than half a mile from the SF patrol base.  The SF Team Sergeant, MSG Thom Maholic, picked a few men to lead twenty Afghan soldiers to try to knock out the Taliban command and control in order to end the fight.  His team was in two sections in order to provide overwatch.

As the soldiers closed in on enemy positions, the Taliban withdrew...it was a trap.  The Taliban fell back to improved crew served (machine gun) positions. 

The first SF Soldier hit was the team medic, Staff Sergeant Matthew Binney, who led the overwatch element of nine Afghan soldiers and one American trainer.  While exposed out in some open ground, a Taliban bullet hit the back of Binney's helmet and knocked him to the ground.  With a fractured skull, SSG Binney regained consciousness, shook off the pain, and fought back.  With hand grenades and small arms, Binney's team fought off assault after assault.

The second American to be wounded was the American trainer - a Florida National Guardsman, Staff Sergeant Joe Fuerst, who was located close to Binney and their Afghan translator, Jacob.  A rocket-propelled grenade landed close enough to seriously wound Fuerst.  That's when Binney got hit a second time.  As he tried to help move Fuerst, machine gun fire when through his shoulder, separating it from his body, shattering his left arm.

The Taliban then called out to Jacob and told him that he would be forgiven if the Taliban could get the Americans alive.  Knowing what the Taliban would do to his comrades, Jacob called the SF Team leader to request permission to kill Binney and Fuerst and himself in order to prevent being mutilated, tortured, and executed.

Major Ford told him to hold on, that help was on the way.

The problem was that the Afghan soldiers trying to enter the village to help the Americans were pinned down.  The SF Patrol Base was surrounded and under assault.  The SF Team that was trying to take out the Taliban compound was hit and surrounded and under assault. 

Master Sergeant Brendan O'Connor, back at the patrol base, volunteered to lead a squad of eight Afghan soldiers through the besieged patrol base and maneuver under fire through town, to get to the surrounded Americans.  O'Connor, 47 years old and the Team Medical Sergeant, had previously been a commission officer.  He had resigned his commission in order to become a SF Medical Sergeant.

At the same time, the Taliban tried to maneuver on Binney, Fuerst and Jacob.  Sergeant First Class Abram Hernandez saw the danger and maneuvered up a ladder on the corner of a building in the village. Standing on the top of the ladder, exposed, tracer rounds hit all around him.  Hernandez fought back - one hand firing away, the other clinging to the ladder.  He would drop down to avoid the barrages of Taliban bullets, then pop back up and return fire to keep them away from the three men exposed in the field.

MSG O'Connor linked up with MSG Maholic.  Maholic told O'Connor to go after the wounded Americans.  MSG Brendan O'Connor attempted to crawl out from his covered position to go after Binney, Fuerst and Jacob, but he couldn't get low enough to avoid detection.  He decided to go back to his covered position, remove his body armor, and try again.  He knew that the men needed medical attention and to be pulled out of there before the Taliban could capture them.  He tied a signal cloth on his back to signal the supporting aircraft that he was a friendly.

O'Connor began his low crawl.  He had ninety yards to go to make it to the wounded team.  The Taliban detected O'Connor's movement fired at him - bullets went directly over his head and struck around his body as he inched his way across the open field.  O'Connor's Afghan soldiers tried to follow him but were turned back by the intense volume of fire.

It took MSG O'Connor a minute for every yard.  That's right.  MSG Brendan O'Connor, crawled for ninety minutes across open terrain, under fire the entire time.  O'Connor was almost to the three men when the Taliban launched an all-out effort to kill him.  A squad of Taliban began to maneuver on O'Connor.

On the rooftop by Hernandez, the Team Sergeant, MSG Maholic saw the deadly situation and began picking off the Taliban assault force.  He single-handedly protected O'Connor as he closed on the American position.  Bullets literally cut the grass down around O'Connor as he crawled.

O'Connor reached Binney, Fuerst and Jacob and began providing first aid.  Apache gun ships were on station and were pounding the Taliban positions.  O'Connor began moving the wounded.  Under fire, MSG O'Connor moved Fuerst and Binney through enemy fire, over three walls, to a more secure house in the village.  Joe Fuerst died as O'Connor carried him to safety.

That's when Master Sergeant Thom Maholic was struck in the head by a Taliban bullet and died in Abram Hernandez's arms.  MSG O'Connor was now the Team Sergeant and rallied the SF Soldiers to keep repelling the Taliban attacks.

The SF Soldiers, believing that they were going to die, took moments during the lulls in the fighting to jot short notes to their loved ones.  According to CBS's Lara Logan, SSG Brandon Pechette wrote a note to his wife saying that he was going to take as many of the enemy with him as he could...

The fight continued on.  The SF Team decided to evacuate through the town.  CPT Ford ordered the men to put on Infared gear.  A USAF plane guided the SF Soldiers out of the town with an IR beam.  Apaches and USAF gunships destroyed anything and anyone not following the beam.

With two dead and one seriously wounded soldier, the Coalition forces had killed over 120 Taliban fighters.

Master Sergeant Brendan O'Connor received the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation's second highest award for valor, for his actions.  It was only the second DSC awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom.   The medal was pinned on O'Connor on April 30th, forty years after his father had been killed in Viet Nam.

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Master Sgt. Brendan O'Connor, 7th Special Forces Group (A) Operational Detachment Alpha, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross during a ceremony at Bank Hall, Fort Bragg, N.C., April 30 for heroic actions during Operation Enduring Freedom.  Photo by Sgt. Daniel Love.

Brendan_oconnor_1_size1armymil20080

Master Sgt. Brendan O'Connor, right, 7th Special Forces Group (A) Operational Detachment Alpha, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of United States Special Operations Command, during a ceremony at Bank Hall, Fort Bragg, N.C., April 30 for heroic actions during Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo by Sgt. Daniel Love

MSG Thom Maholic posthumously received the Silver Star.  His son, Andrew, accepted the award at the SF ceremony, surrounded by the men that his father had saved.

Captain Shef Ford (now a Major), Staff Sergeant Matthew Binney, and Sergeant First Class Abram Hernandez also received Silver Stars.

All of them are Someone You Should Know.
 


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