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Army soldier receives Distinguished Service Cross for service during 2015 Mali hostage crisis

The Distinguished Service Cross for Army Pvt. Stephen C. Sanford, and two Silver Stars for Army Staff Sgt. Michael Barrera and Army Pvt. Joshua Joseph are prepared for presentation at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Feb. 22, 2007. (Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen/U.S. Air Force)
July 25, 2019

An Army special operator was recently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their valor displayed in 2015 — and nobody knows the soldier’s name.

The award was sanctioned by the secretary of the Army’s office in June 2018 to commemorate the soldier’s valor on Nov. 20, 2015 — a date coinciding with the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali terror attack — although no details of the incident or the soldier’s name could be revealed due to security purposes, the Army Times reported.

The unnamed soldier’s award citation states he was “serving as a team leader operating against an enemy force in support of overseas contingency operations. Without regard for his own safety, [his] valorous actions, dedication to duty, and willingness to place himself in great personal risk for the protection of others was critical to the success of a sensitive operation.”

The highly publicized terrorist attack was a sensitive operation involving gunmen who were connected with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb storming the hotel with AK-47 rifles, killing 20 people and taking 170 more hostages.

Islamic extremists entered the hotel shouting “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is great” in Arabic, and opened fire, NBC News reported.

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Following the attack, the Pentagon reported that there was no direct U.S. military involvement and the Malian forces were in charge of evacuating the hotel, but that was later found to be erroneous.

The exact details of the operation are still unconfirmed to this day.

Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a USASOC official said, “Army Special Operations Forces are deployed to more than 60 countries around the world on any given day. Brave men and woman assigned to Army Special Operations units fight alongside each other and our allies and partners towards common goals across the globe.”

He added, “Previous to September 2001 until now, a plethora of valor awards have been bestowed upon ARSOF Soldiers showcasing the value U.S. Army Special Operation Command brings to each other and the Nation.”

Marine Raider, Master Sgt. Jarad Stout, who was also part of the assignment, was awarded the Silver Star. He was also named Marine Corps Times’ Service Member of the Year for 2019.

About the 2015 attack, Stout said, “There was very little time to respond. 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.”

Among those killed was an American and quite a few Russian, Chinese, Belgian and Malian citizens.

U.S. troops do have permission to operate in Africa in and currently there are around 6,000 U.S. troops and 1,000 DoD civilians at Africa’s disposal, though those numbers have reduced since 2018.