Master Sergeant Michael S. Hunter
This week MSG Hunter received two of the nation’s highest awards for valor in combat, both stemming from his 2010 combat tour in Western Afghanistan.
During a 16-hour gunfight in June of 2010, MSG Hunter delivered medical care to two wounded team members while taking enemy fire. MSG Hunter's actions that day earned him a Bronze Star. The commendation reads:
“His courageous actions all the way through the engagement kept momentum in the friendly force’s favor and were decisive to repelling a determined enemy assault and the successful treatment and evacuation of two critically injured U.S. soldiers.”
MSG Hunter received a Silver Star for another fight in April of 2012 in which he took control of a faltering joint mission with Afghan commandos and led an attack that caused the deaths of some 103 insurgents.
The mission for MSG Hunter's team of four US Special Forces soldiers and 28 Afghan commandos was to serve as a reconnaissance and surveillance element to scope out hardened enemy positions near Afghanistan’s border with Turkmenistan.
Insurgents had forced out civilians and laid out an entrenched network of tunnels and compounds to be used against Western and Afghan government forces. The mission morphed into a raid on these enemy positions, enabling NATO to destroy machinegun bunkers and mine obstacles.
The joint commando team slipped through the enemy’s front line and scouted other positions. They first took fire when a man peered around a corner and fired on them with an AK-47. The commandos killed that first shooter.
They took more fire as they approached one of the main enemy positions, killing several insurgents but suffering several injuries and at least one fatal casualty among their own ranks. They linked up with another patrol and created a helicopter landing zone to evacuate the first wounded and fallen Afghan commandos.
MSG Hunter put himself out front that day and took risks so other soldiers and Afghan commandos would not have to. MSG Hunter's Silver Star commendation reads:
“Throughout the entire 10-hour engagement, Sergeant Hunter repeatedly provided inspiration, leadership, and guidance to both Special Forces soldiers and Afghanistan Army commandos. Sergeant Hunter’s element ensured that the enemy was unable to bring effective fire to bear as the first (medical evacuation) helicopter extracted four friendly wounded and one friendly killed.”
Commandos kept moving toward enemy positions, but started to show reluctance after losing several countrymen. That’s when Hunter put himself at the front of the fight against the insurgents in the tunnels. According to the commendation, MSG Hunter “calmly stepped to the front of them, moved to the nearest tunnel entrance where the enemy was firing from and personally neutralized the insurgents with grenades and rifle fire."
His bravery boosted the confidence of his Afghan allies. His “selflessness and firm resolve inspired the commandos and enabled them to find the will to continue to fight.”
As the mission continued, the Special Forces team discovered an elaborate tunnel network beyond what they expected. It was so entrenched they chose to call in NATO air support to destroy it. Western aircraft dropped four 500-pound bombs on the site, reducing the compound.
Commandos went back to the compound after the jets nearly leveled it. About 30 more fighters counterattacked.
Hunter played an important role in helping the commands from both nations withdraw from the fight under heavy fire.
“Sergeant Hunter refused to allow other Special Forces soldiers to place themselves in these exposed positions and insisted on assuming rearguard duty yet again. Sergeant Hunter’s repeated heroic, selfless actions throughout the withdrawal allowed the patrol” to return to its forward base without further serious casualties.
The Silver Star is awarded exclusively for valor in combat.
Hunter is married and a father of four. He has served the 1st Special Forces Group since 2007, deploying to Afghanistan, Iraq, Cambodia and the Philippines.
"To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour."
- Winston Churchill