A U.S. Marine Corps canine with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) awaits instruction from its handler during a MV-22B Osprey exercise on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 4, 2016. MARSOC specializes in direct action, special reconnaissance and foreign internal defense and has also been directed to conduct counter-terrorism, and information operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler S. Dietrich, MCIWEST-MCB CamPen Combat Camera/Released)
Honoring Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan W. Gifford, who perished July 29, 2012, in Bagdhis province, Afghanistan, fighting to his last breath in an enemy ambush.
According to a recent report by the Marine Corps Times, when a group of Afghan special forces soldiers came under enemy fire, Gifford, a team chief assigned to Marine Special Operations Command, jumped onto an all-terrain vehicle and sped 800 meters to their aid, administering first aid and moving the wounded to an evacuation zone, under enemy fire all the while.
He then returned across that 800-meter stretch of unprotected terrain to defend another group of Afghan commandos.
He killed an insurgent who was firing from a window, scaled a building full of Taliban fighters and dropped a fragmentation grenade down the chimney, and continued to engage the enemy before falling to enemy fire.
For his bravery and sacrifice, Gifford was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for gallantry in combat on June 17, 2014.
Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. John Paxton presented the award to Gunny Gifford’s family in a ceremony at MARSOC Headquarters aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
A Multi-Purpose Canine handler with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command prepares his canine for a parachute jump over Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 10, 2015. As MARSOC continues to demonstrate their versatile capabilities, MPC handlers with the command are preparing their canines to maneuver in new areas of operation.
Marine Raiders with Marine Special Operations, Company Charlie, 1st Marine Raider Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC), participating in Visit, Board, Search and Seizure training, during a Company Collective Exercise, Oct. 15, 2015, in San Diego, Calif.
Major Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, presents Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandro Salabarria the Silver Star Medal during a ceremony at Stone Bay aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. Salabarria was awarded for his actions in Afghanistan Sept. 15, 2014.
(Photo and article by Sergeant Lia Gamato, 5 FEB 2016.)
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandro Salabarria, a corpsman with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Raider Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, was awarded the Silver Star Medal during a ceremony at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 5, for his actions in Afghanistan.
Salabarria, a Miami native, joined the Navy in December 2008 with the full intention of becoming a corpsman serving at an infantry unit. However, his first orders directed him to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.
Unfazed, Salabarria decided to take control of his future service as a corpsman, taking an interest in special operations. He attended the Basic Reconnaissance School and Army Basic Airborne School, then received orders to 3d Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. While preparing for deployment with Scout Sniper Platoon, Salabarria jumped on the opportunity to attend the Special Operations Combat Medic Course in Fort Bragg, N.C. Upon graduation, he received orders to 2nd MRB.
“From all of his training, he was basically a junior (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman), which was exactly what we needed on the team,” said a critical skills operator with Marine Special Operations Team 8214, Marine Special Operations Company F.
Salabarria checked into the team in 2013 and, from the start, he set himself apart.
“Most corpsmen stay in their bubble … but Sal was always the guy who wanted to go out and be a CSO before he was a corpsman,” said a critical skills operator. “Which was great because it’s hard to instill that aggressiveness in someone.”
In June 2014, the team deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was nearing the end of their deployment, on Sept. 15, 2014, that the team was caught by enemy fire.
“We were headed to the (landing zone), and what caught my eye was that off to my right there was one guy praying. No one else was praying, just this one individual,” said the CSO. “Didn’t think anything of it.”
The team was dropped off on the LZ and split into two groups for the flight, one team staging to the north, the other to the south. Because aircraft wasn’t expected to land for several hours, the teams took a tactical pause to adjust their gear. It wasn’t until dark settled over the LZ that they came under attack.
“It’s funny that I heard (it) because we were a fair good distance away, but it was clear as day. I heard, ‘What the (expletive),’ and it almost sounded like a flash bang went off, and then just rapid fire,” said the CSO.
A rogue shooter had fired an M203 round into the LZ before circling around firing off an automatic weapon into the groups of gathered Raiders and commandos.
“I immediately hit the deck, I thought Sal is right next to me. He wasn’t,” said the CSO. “I don’t think he even hit the ground, I think he just ran.”
Salabarria had grabbed his medical kit and taken off running toward the center of the LZ where someone was yelling in pain. He explained that the only thing visible were muzzle flashes and the outlines of people, so he followed the cries for help. Salabarria first came across the foreign interpreter who then directed him to the team SARC. The senior medic had been struck by rapid fire in his arm and leg, shattering the upper part of his shin bone.
“I checked him over real quick, and that’s when I noticed that we were directly getting shot at,” said Salabarria. “At that point, I laid on top of (the team SARC), told him not to move, and I shot at (the shooter) until he went down.”
“Stories go, that other commandos were shooting, that our guys were shooting,” said the CSO. “But from my perspective, it was a gunfight between two people.”
For his “bold initiative, undaunted courage, and complete dedication to duty,” Maj Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, presented Salabarria with the Silver Star Medal. He was joined by Surgeon General Vice Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, and teammates from 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.
“I think anybody on that team, given the opportunity, would have done the same thing. It just happened to be me that did it,” said Salabarria.
Sergeant Charles Strong lost his life during this attack. His family attended the ceremony as guests of honor, along with the family of Capt. Stanford H. Shaw III, who was a part of the “Raider 7” lost in March 2015, in a helicopter crash off the coast of Florida. Shaw was the officer who first submitted Salabarria for the award.
“(This medal) is more for Capt. Shaw and Sgt. Strong than anything,” said Salabarria. “It’s all for them.”
USMC Sergeant Charles C. Strong. 15 SEP 2014. Died in Herat Province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered in an insider attack. Strong was assigned to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, out of Camp Lejeune, NC.
Marine Raiders with 1st Marine Raider Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps
Forces, Special Operations Command, transition out of the water during a
simulated underwater assault force night-raid in Los Angeles,
California, Sept. 3, 2015. Training such as this is conducted to meet
Special Operations Forces dive requirements and to enhance the
understanding, planning and operational considerations when working in a
joint operational environment with both special operations and
conventional Marine Corps forces. 1st Marine Raider Battalion is
organized, trained and equipped to deploy for worldwide missions as
directed by MARSOC in support of their regionally-aligned Theater
Special Operations Command. (U.S. Marine Corps Photos by Sgt. Scott A.
A Critical Skills Operator with U.S. Marine Corps
Forces Special Operations Command uses a saw to cut through a metal
door to gain entry on a building during Marine Special Operation
School’s Master Breacher’s Course, at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base
Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 20, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt.
Scott A. Achtemeier / Released)
A Marine Special Operations Team member fires an AK-47 during night fire sustainment training in Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 28, 2013. Marine Special Operations Team members are deployed in Helmand province to train and mentor Afghan National Security Forces.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/Released)
Marine Raiders with 1st Marine Raider Battalion,
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, provides security
while conducting a simulated night-raid on a warehouse in Los Angeles,
California, Sept. 3, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Scott A.
Achtemeier / Released)
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command personnel with 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion conduct Direct Action training Oct. 25, 2014, here, during RAVEN 15-01, a 10-day exercise to enhance readiness for worldwide deployment in support of global contingencies. During the exercise, the Marines participated in a range of training including Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Security Force Assistance, Counterterrorism, Counterinsurgency, and Foreign Internal Defense. (Official Marine Corps photo by Capt. Barry Morris/released)
Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command held a re-designation ceremony at Stone Bay, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 19, 2015. The ceremony was held to officially adopt the name Marine Raider, carrying on the heritage and legacy passes by the Marine Raiders of World War II. During the ceremony, the units’ colors were cases and their new colors were unveiled.
Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, commanding general for Marine Corps Installations Command and Warrior Games Task Force Commander, participates in a game of wheelchair basketball with the All-Marine Team aboard Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Va., June 18, 2015. The 2015 DoD Warrior Games, held at MCB Quantico June 19-28, is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured Service members and veterans from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Owen Kimbrel/Released)