Then-Gunnery Sgt. Jarad Stout was sleeping in the early morning hours of Nov. 20, 2015, when the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, was attacked by gunmen affiliated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
The armed militants were holding about 170 people hostage, including a dozen Americans.
But when the Marine Raider, who was serving as a liaison to the U.S. embassy at the time, received word of an “active shooter,” he and his team were “out the door in five minutes." Stout had very little initial information regarding the attack, but he devised a plan and led his team, braving grenades and small arms fire, to help rescue hostages.
“There was very little time to respond,” Stout said in a command release. “However, our purpose was clear. That clarity and unity of purpose allowed us to navigate the ambiguity and manage our emotions to accomplish the mission at hand.”
More than 20 people were killed in the mass shooting, including one American.
Now a master sergeant, Stout’s heroic actions and quick decision-making earned him the nation’s third highest award for combat bravery, the Silver Star. The award was presented at a closed-door ceremony at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in April 2018.
Stout will be honored as the Marine of the Year at this year’s annual Service Members of the Year Awards ceremony, which will be held July 10 in Washington.
The Marine Raider received the Silver Star for rescuing hostages during a 2015 terrorist attack in Mali.
Stout enlisted in the Corps in 2003 and has spent the past 16 years supporting America’s global fight against terrorism — and racking up six overseas deployments.
Half of those deployments were in the past several years, when Stout served as an operator with elite Marine Raiders combating North and West Africa’s nebulous world of insurgents, militia groups and wannabe ISIS and al-Qaida offshoots.
He told Marine Corps Times in an interview that service to his country is the “most important calling” that he has, and that the “service-before-self mentality” is a major driving force in his life.
Since deploying to West Africa in 2014, Stout has been immersed in America’s shadowy wars in the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility, where the threats are often erratic, the players are ambiguous and violence often rises and falls with the local political tumult.
While there have been talks of reducing America’s military footprint in the region, little is known about U.S. operations in AFRICOM. Just a handful of special operations forces and conventional troops are spread thinly across small outposts, various diplomatic missions and drone bases covering vast geographic terrain.
Stout knew the risks involved in the AFRICOM area of operations when he rushed to the aid of Americans held hostage by terrorist gunmen at the Mali hotel.
But Stout says much credit is also owed to U.S. embassy staff who worked “really hard to manage the crisis."
“It was a lot of confusion, a lot of chaos and they did a really good job,” Stout said. “They dealt with the situation as it was and not as they wanted it to be."
U.S. forces face a task fraught with complications stemming from Mali’s complex political atmosphere, which features a plethora of extremist groups, terrorist organizations and sophisticated weaponry.
In 2018, Stout was selected for the Congressional Fellowship Program, an opportunity Stout volunteered for so he could work “outside his comfort zone” and help provide lawmakers with a more “granular look” about what is actually happening in North and West Africa.
Stout works with and advises U.S. Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., chairman of the House intelligence and emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee.
When he has time, Stout volunteers for Community Family Life Services — a nonprofit that helps move families out of poverty.
He also runs to raise money for various charities. He helped raise money for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors in memory of Anita Datar, the American aid worker killed in the hotel attack. Stout described her as a “fantastic example of American exceptionalism” who “went out in the world and did her best to make it a better place.”
He also will be running to raise money for Spirit of America, which provides support to deployed military and civilian personnel.