Cpl. Mahmoud Ali, a supply shipping branch specialist with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39, received a Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat "V" during an award ceremony aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 28. Ali was awarded for his bravery when 15 Afghan civlians to safety while under direct fire during the attack on Camp Bastion in September. (Lance Cpl. Melissa Eschenbrenner / Marines)
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An air wing Marine was awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat "V" for quick actions that saved 15 foreign civilians during the deadly attack on Camp Bastion in September.
Cpl. Mahmoud Ali, a supply shipping branch specialist, deployed with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16 (Forward) in 2012. He was aboard Camp Bastion the night of Sept. 14 when 15 insurgents penetrated the wire and launched an attack.
The insurgents, working in three teams of five, used assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons in a coordinated attack. Two Marines were killed and at least nine coalition personnel were wounded. The insurgents also destroyed six AV-8B Harrier jets, military officials said.
During the attack, Ali — then a lance corporal — found 15 civilians facing imminent danger. He moved from a concealed position to the nearby fuel farm to help them, the citation states, and guided the civilians into a bunker. Ali faced direct and indirect fire while doing so.
Ali then noticed their position was quickly becoming vulnerable to fire, heat and smoke from the burning fuel farm, so he again braved enemy fire to lead them to a safer location where he could better provide security, according to the citation.
Sgt. Maj. Anthony Spadaro, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing's sergeant major, told Marine Corps Times that his cheeks hurt from grinning so much on Feb. 28, the day he watched Ali receive the award. Ali, now with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39, also was meritoriously promoted during the ceremony aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif.
"He had the presence of mind to go up to those 15 men, huddling scared, to bring them to safety," Spadaro said. "He could've left them there. Why did he do this? Because it's right."
Flames from the fuel farm reached hundreds of feet high and were visible miles away on Camp Leatherneck, which abuts Camp Bastion, witnesses said. Combined, they serve as the main hub for coalition forces in southwestern Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, 40, commanding officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211, the Harrier squadron deployed to Bastion at the time, led a heroic counterattack against the insurgents that ultimately cost him his life. He was posthumously put up for the Silver Star, Marine officials told Marine Corps Times. It's the nation's third-highest award for combat valor.
Also killed in the attack was Sgt. Bradley Atwell, 27, who was assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 and working for MALS-16 while deployed. Both men were based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., while stateside.
Ali's citation states that his "exceptional professionalism, unrelenting perseverance and loyal devotion to duty reflected credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps."
Staff writer Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.