Trump Awards Navy SEAL the Medal of Honor
On May 24, retired Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL), Britt Slabinski became the 12th living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery displayed in Afghanistan.
President Donald J. Trump presented Slabinski with the medal during a White House ceremony for his actions while leading a team under heavy effective enemy fire in an attempt to rescue teammate Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts during Operation Anaconda in 2002.
During the ceremony, Trump praised Slabinski and his heroric actions. "Today we induct a new name into the world's most exclusive gathering of heroes," said Trump, "Britt Slabinski is a special man and truly brave person."
"Through your actions you demonstrated that there is no love more pure and no courage more great than the love and courage that burns in the heart of American patriots. We are free because warriors like you are willing to give their sweat, their blood, and if they have to, their lives for our great nation. It's my tremendous privilege to present to you the Congressional Medal of Honor," added Trump.
In the early morning of March 4, 2002, then-Senior Chief Slabinski led a reconnaissance team to its assigned area atop Takur Ghar, a 10,000-foot snow-covered mountain in Afghanistan. An enemy rocket-propelled grenade attack on the insertion helicopter caused Roberts to fall onto the enemy-infested mountaintop below, and forced the damaged helicopter to crash land in the valley below.
Fully aware of the risks, a numerically superior and well-entrenched enemy force, and approaching daylight, Slabinski made the decision to lead the remainder of his element on a rescue back to the mountaintop. Slabinski's team, despite heavy incoming enemy fire, was subsequently successfully inserted on top of Takur Ghar.
Slabinski, without regard for his own life, charged directly toward the enemy strongpoint. He and a teammate assaulted and cleared one enemy bunker at close range. The enemy then unleashed a hail of machine gun fire from a second hardened position 20 meters away. Slabinski exposed himself to enemy fire on three sides, and then moved forward to silence the second position. With bullets piercing his clothing, he repeatedly charged into deadly fire to personally engage the enemy bunker with direct rifle fire, hand grenades and a grenade launcher on the surrounding enemy positions. Facing mounting casualties and low on ammunition, the situation became untenable. Slabinski skillfully maneuvered his team across open terrain, directing them out of effective enemy fire over the mountainside.
Slabinski maneuvered his team to a more defensible position, directed danger-close air support on the enemy, requested reinforcements and directed the medical care of his rapidly deteriorating wounded teammates, all while continuing to defend his position.
When approaching daylight and accurate enemy mortar fire forced the team to maneuver further down the sheer mountainside, Slabinski carried a seriously wounded teammate through waist-deep snow, and led an arduous trek across precipitous terrain while calling in fire on enemies on the surrounding ridges. Throughout the next 14 hours, he stabilized the casualties and continued the fight against the enemy until the mountain top could be secured and his team was extracted.
The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty while:
- engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
- engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
- serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
Slabinski's Medal of Honor is an upgrade of the Navy Cross that he was previously awarded for these actions. Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter directed the military departments to review all Service Cross and Silver Star recommendations for actions since Sept. 11, 2001, to ensure service members who performed valorously were appropriately recognized.
Slabinski, a native of Northampton, Massachusetts, joined the Navy in September 1988. After graduating from Radioman Class "A" School in San Diego, he completed the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course in January 1990. He retired in June 2014 as the director of Naval Special Warfare Safety Assurance and Analysis Program after more than 25 years of service.
Slabinski has been assigned to both West and East Coast SEAL teams, and he has completed nine overseas deployments and 15 combat tours. He has previously been awarded the Navy Cross; the Navy and Marine Corps Medal; five Bronze Star Medals with Combat "V" device; two Combat Action Ribbons; two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals; the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; the Meritorious Service Medal; the Joint Service Commendation Medal; the Joint Service Achievement Medal; and eight Good Conduct Medals.