Two Pararescuemen (PJ) received the Silver Star for valor under fire in two separate deployments to Afghanistan.
The first PJ to be recognized was technical Sergeant Gavin Fisher, assigned to the 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron (350TH SWTSQ). Tech Sgt. Fisher’s actions took place on August 11-12, 2018. He was attached to a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) conducting a ten-day search-and-destroy operation in Ghazni district. The American force was partnered with Afghan commandos. In the middle of the operation, the combined U.S.-Afghani SOF force was ambushed by hundreds of Taliban. Despite being wounded, Tech Sgt. risked his life repeatedly to provide urgent medical attention to his fellow operators. He has been credited with saving 10 critically injured and helping to evacuate 20 wounded American and Afghani commandos.
The second PJ to be recognized was Staff Sergeant Daniel Swensen, assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron (58th RSQ). His actions took place between September 13-14 of this year. Staff Sgt. Swensen was also attached to an SF ODA. They were conducting a sweep through the Anar Darah district center to clear it from Taliban fighters. During the initial phases of the operation, they were ambushed by an overwhelming force of insurgents. At one point, a Green Beret was seriously wounded and Staff Sgt. Swensen rushed through a hail or RPG and rifle fire to tend him. He then moved him and additional casualties to a helicopter landing zone as they were ambushed for a second time. He was credited with saving the lives of nine American and Afghan commandos.
General Charles Brown, the commanding officer of Pacific Air Forces, said during the awards ceremony that “We can become so absorbed by the tales and the characters and their abilities that we can lose sight of our real-life heroes — heroes like Tech. Sgt. Gavin Fisher and Staff Sgt. Daniel Swensen. Only 1 percent of our service men and women, representing 1 percent of the population, have received this Silver Star. So, these gentlemen are in a very exclusive club.”
The Silver Star is the nation’s third-highest award for bravery in combat.
Tech Sgt. Fisher made an incisive statement about his award: “Getting this medal,” he said, “is important because it lets people know the war is still going on, and valiant efforts by men and women are still going forth. People are still out there dying and fighting for each other, and it needs to be recognized.”
And yet, the unfortunate reality is that his and Staff Sgt. Swensen’s actions, and indeed those of some many unnamed warfighters, will be sidelined by the next hot political drama to come out of Washington.