Two Marines serving with Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC), also known as “Raiders,” have been awarded medals of valor for their actions during a fierce firefight in 2017. The gunfight occurred in North Africa between the Marines and al-Qaeda fighters according to a spokesman for United States Africa Command (AFRICOM).
The combat action event occurred during a 72-hour operation to assist, advise, and train local national partner military forces. AFRICOM did not disclose the location at which the firefight took place due to “classification considerations, force protection, and diplomatic sensitivities.” The Marines were engaged by al-Qaeda militants on February 28, 2017, what transpired was a “fierce fight against members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” based off of an award citation that was released. Given that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates in Algeria, Mali, Libya, Niger, and Mauritania; any one of these could have been where the battle took place.
AFRICOM, spokesman Samantha Reho stated that the local national soldiers initially engaged the al-Qaeda attackers, killing one. The Marines eventually joined in, utilizing small arms to repel the assault when Al-Qaeda militants began a flanking them, before calling for air support. The Marines were forced to “return fire in self-defense,” given the circumstances, according to the statement. The citations noted that the Marines communications chief and assistant element leader “provided critical communications relay and ensured proper positioning of partner force elements.” Another Marine gave rapid medical aid to another Marine that was injured and when the helicopter arrived, assisted in loading him onto it; all of this was done under heavy enemy fire.
The 2nd citation describes how a Raider aboard a helicopter sent for close air support (CAS) engaged enemy combatants from the air while simultaneously directing crew members. The al-Qaeda fighters on the ground returned fire with efficiency as the soldier manning the crew served machine gun on board was struck in his foot by a round. The Marine on board “took control of the M60 and continued to suppress the enemy while treating the wounded gunner. He then accompanied the helicopter during the casualty evacuation of the Marine Raider and a second casualty later in the day, and conducted two re-supply deliveries all under enemy fire,” according to the citation. According to AFRICOM, the local national soldiers under the guidance of the Marine operators were able to repel the enemy assault and secure the battle space before they assessed that “two enemies were killed.”