A Marine Raider was awarded the Silver Star Friday for heroic actions that led to the rescue of dozens of hostages during the infamous November 2015 terrorist attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali.
The elite operator with 3rd Marine Raider Battalion out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was serving as a senior leader with the American commando force when his unit got word of a terrorist attack at the hotel, according to a command release.
The Raider kitted up and devised a plan with his fellow teammates en route to the hotel, where terrorists associated with Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, had just stormed a hotel frequented by Westerners, holding nearly 170 hostages.
“There was very little time to respond,” the Raider said in a command release. “We fell back on what we had prepared for. There were points in which the situation became more intense, ambiguous and scary. At times, the situation we faced was confusing and difficult. 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.”
Marine Corps Times is withholding the Raider’s name for operational security reasons.
At the hotel, the team pushed through grenade and small arms fire to rescue nearly 150 hostages, according to the command release.
One team member tripped from a sudden burst of machine gun coming from a stairwell, and the elite commando force laid down cover fire to rescue their comrade.
“It was one of those defining points in life where you realize you are exactly where you belong,” the Raider said in the command release.
Despite the intensity of the battle, the Raider said he “knew beyond all doubt” what needed to be done and that failure was never on his mind.
“Every American we found and pulled out of the hotel only increased my desire to keep going,” he said. “Every time the smoke cleared a little more, I felt both exposed and enabled.”
Army Gen. Tony Thomas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, presented the Raider with the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor, during a closed-door ceremony at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
On Nov. 20, 2015, about 10 gunmen associated with AQIM stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital of Bamako, taking 170 hostages, Military Times previously reported.
About five American Defense Department officials were directly caught up in the incident, and 22 DoD personnel were in Bamako during the crisis.
They were all accounted for after the hotel was cleared by Malian security forces.
The U.S. military has a relatively small footprint of intelligence and special operators in Mali. Their mission is primarily aimed at assisting the French in a counterterrorism operation known as Operation Barkhane.