The White House announced on Tuesday that it will award the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Navy SEAL Britt K. Slabinski, for recognition of his actions during a 2002 rescue mission now commonly referred to as Robert’s Ridge. The Medal will be presented on May 24th in recognition of Slabinski’s, “conspicuous gallantry.”
The Trump administration’s announcement follows on the heels of the hotly contested and controversial nature of what really happened during the operation and has been ensnarled in inter-service rivalry with the Air Force, who had recommend Air Force Technical Sergeant John Chapman for the Medal of Honor. Writing for Newsweek, Sean Naylor presents compelling evidence that Chapman had been left behind and gallantly fought the enemy to his last bullet.
The official report from the U.S. Navy stated that Slabinski led a team facing substantial enemy fire, “in an attempt to rescue teammate Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts during Operation ANACONDA in 2002. Master Chief Slabinski’s selfless actions throughout the 14-hour battle constituted gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
In making the announcement, the White House outlined how Slabinski led a reconnaissance team to a snowy mountaintop, “in support of a major coalition offensive against Al-Qaeda forces in the valley below.”
According to the White House, after a helicopter crash-landing and a teammate ejected from the aircraft, Slabinski mounted “a daring assault back to the mountain peak in an attempt to rescue their stranded teammate.” A former member of the Predator RPA community, speaking to SOFREP said “the drone feed verified Robert’s was still alive after the Chinook left.”
It has also been mentioned that there was also a nearby LP/OP on an adjacent mountain peak manned by Delta Force operators who had eyes on the position which was able to help feed information to the mission in real time. Because of the sheer magnitude of ANACONDA, those mountains were effectively crawling with American personnel.
The White House statement describes Slabinski facing sustained attacks, “as he engaged in a pitched, close-quarters firefight against the tenacious and more heavily armed enemy forces.” In addition, Slabinski, “carried a seriously wounded teammate through waist-deep snow,” according to the Navy’s website, and continued to engage the enemy “until the mountain top could be secured and his team was extracted.”
A more detailed account of the mission can be found here — a mission that saw the first USAF Pararescue (PJ) casualty since Vietnam — and one of the most notorious missions in which Rangers were involved in Afghanistan to date. The Battle of Takur Ghar — commonly referred to as Robert’s Ridge — was at that time, the largest loss of American life in a single battle since Mogadishu.
Slabinski has received a number of other awards in recognition of his actions, including the Navy Cross and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.
Featured image courtesy of the Department of Navy [Public Domain]