As we wait to find out more of the details of the latest combat operation in Niger where a Special Forces team from the 3rd Special Forces Group, 3rd SFG(A) was involved in an action where several Green Berets were killed or injured, today marks another special day for the 3rd SFG(A), and one its members.
On this day in 2010, President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor, posthumously to the parents of SSG Robert J. Miller.
Miller, a Green Beret from 3rd Group’s ODA-3312 was on his second tour of Afghanistan in 2007-2008. He’d previously been decorated for valor on an earlier deployment and was the only member of his team that spoke Pashto the native Afghan dialect.
The Afghan soldiers, part of the ANA (Afghan National Army) liked and trusted Miller and he had made a good rapport with the allied troops. On January 24, 2008, the ODA and their Afghan counterparts were tasked with a combat reconnaissance mission designed to root out insurgent safe havens located in the ridges of the Chen Khar valley.
With support from UAVs to scout out insurgent players on the slopes and F-15s and A-10s providing airstrikes, the combined SF/ANA team moved into the valley blanketed by almost a foot of snow. Enroute, the team had to clear two boulders from the road, a favorite insurgent trick to slow down or stop convoys on the road.
The team reached their initial objective around 0100 on January 25, a suspected insurgent compound which was empty. Then the SF troops got word that the UAV spotted 15-20 insurgents across the river on the slope, preparing to attack the coalition troops. Miller leaped into the turret of his GMV (Ground Mobility Vehicle) and began engaging the enemy with his Mk. 19 40 mm automatic grenade launcher. The F-15 and A-10 air support made ground support strafing runs.
The team’s Mk. 19 broke down and Miller was unable to fix it. He moved to the rear of the GMV and began firing on the M-240B machine gun.
When the firing ceased, Miller’s team leader, Major Robert Cusick, ordered Miller to take the point of a patrol up to do a battle damage assessment. Miller, Cusick and six other Green Berets and a team of 15 ANA crossed the river and climbed up the valley.
Miller moved forward with a SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) when an insurgent broke free from some rocks, shouting “Allah Akbar” rushed Miller. It was at this point that the valley came alive with over 200 insurgents pouring fire down on the exposed team. Cusick later recalled it like as being in the middle of a July 4th fireworks display.
Miller killed the insurgent with his SAW and immediately laid down suppressive fire for the remainder of the team.
Cusick was seriously wounded with a gunshot to the collarbone area. Miller was hit in the torso but was able to spin around and kill the insurgent. But then he did what no one, American or insurgent expected…he attacked. Moving forward, he single-handedly took on the enemy force and his SAW, which was highly visible due to the flash of the muzzle attracted an enormous amount of insurgent fire, so heavy, that the Americans reported that although he was close, was impossible to reach.
Miller kept up the fire and moved on insurgent positions, eliminating them one at a time with a mixture of SAW fire and hand grenades. It wasn’t until his ammunition and grenades expended, that he was killed by rifle fire.
His team twice tried to reach him but to no avail, finally a QRF (Quick Reaction Force) arrived and the coalition forces were able to recover Miller’s body. He single-handedly dealt a crippling blow to the enemy, killing 16 and wounding and another 30. His selfless actions allowed his team to seek cover and evacuate the wounded.
On October 6, 2010, President Obama’s comments about Miller at the ceremony with his parents left no doubt as to the heroism that was involved on that bloody night: Rob Miller — and all those who give their lives in our name — endure in each of us. Every American is safer because of their service. And every American has a duty to remember and honor their sacrifice.
If we do — if we keep their legacy alive, if we keep faith with the freedoms they died to defend — then we can imagine a day, decades from now, when another child sits down at his desk, ponders the true meaning of heroism and finds inspiration in the story of a soldier — Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller and a generation that “fought day and night, fighting for what they thought was right.”
Miller’s MOH Citation: The President of the United States of America, authorized by act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded, in the name of the Congress, the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.
Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism while serving as the weapons sergeant in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force 33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on January 25th, 2008.
While conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol through the Gowardesh Valley, Staff Sergeant Miller and his small element of U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers engaged a force of 15 to 20 insurgents occupying prepared fighting positions. Staff Sergeant Miller initiated the assault by engaging the enemy positions with his vehicle’s turret-mounted Mk 19 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher, while simultaneously providing detailed descriptions of the enemy positions to his command, enabling effective, accurate close air support.
Following the engagement, Staff Sergeant Miller led a small squad forward to conduct a battle damage assessment. As the group neared the small, steep, narrow valley that the enemy had inhabited, a large, well-coordinated insurgent force initiated a near ambush, assaulting from elevated positions with ample cover.
Exposed and with little available cover, the patrol was totally vulnerable to enemy rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire.
As a point man, Staff Sergeant Miller was at the front of the patrol, cut off from supporting elements and less than 20 meters from enemy forces. Nonetheless, with total disregard for his own safety, he called for his men to quickly move back to cover positions as he charged the enemy over exposed ground and under overwhelming enemy fire in order to provide protective fire for his team.
While maneuvering to engage the enemy, Staff Sergeant Miller was shot in the upper torso. Ignoring the wound, he continued to push the fight. Moving to draw fire from over 100 enemy fighters upon himself, he then again charged forward through an open area in order to allow his teammates to safely reach cover.
After killing at least 10 insurgents, wounding dozens more and repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire while moving from position to position, Staff Sergeant Miller was mortally wounded by enemy fire. His extraordinary valor ultimately saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghan National Army soldiers.
Staff Sergeant Miller’s heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty and at the cost of his own life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
Photos US Army