Their vehicles crawled up a mountain road at night in Afghanistan, with a 300-foot cliff on either side. It was a standard mission for the team of U.S. Green Berets—a Predator unmanned aircraft had spotted insurgents carrying rocket launchers into a house and the seven-man Special Forces team was called in to confirm.
Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, 24, volunteered to serve at the front of the mission on January 25, 2008. Since he spoke Pashto, it would be easier for him to communicate with the 15 Afghan soldiers they linked up with for the mission. Once they confirmed what the Predator saw, they would call in an air strike—at least that was the plan.
The drive up the mountain was stopped twice by boulders blocking the road, and the team had to destroy both using C-4 plastic explosives. "The second boulder was nearly within sight of the objective, so we had to come to a stop again and blow that boulder. I believe that's when the enemy was tipped off,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Martin, according to the Army News Service.
When the team neared the house spotted by the Predator, through night vision goggles, they saw Taliban fighters moving out of the house and taking up positions, and a firefight erupted between the two forces.
The Green Berets thought they had the upper hand. The Taliban fighters were having little impact, and the Special Forces team was pounding them with return fire. Miller was sent in on foot with a small team.
"Nothing unusual about it," Martin said, according to the Army News Service. "It became unusual after the initial bombs were dropped and we'd opened with heavy fire."
Miller crossed a small bridge, armed with a M249 SAW light machine gun. As they moved forward, the entire hillside lit up with gunfire. The team was ambushed and found themselves in a close-quarters fight with the Taliban—less than 50 feet apart, according to the Army News Service.
The team leader, Capt. Robert B. Cusick, was wounded and went down, and Miller took command.
Miller told his men to take cover, and charged forward; throwing grenades and firing at the enemy forces with his SAW. By drawing fire from more than 100 enemy fighters, he allowed his teammates to retreat from the kill zone, carrying Cusick with them.
"I think he wanted to provide that extra firepower for his buddies so they could get out of the kill zone," said Cusick, according to the Army News Service.
"He bounded forward; we moved back… he saved lives that day,” Cusick said.
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