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Marine awarded Silver Star for combat valor

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“I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joseph F. Lurz, a native of Baltimore.

Lurz was presented with the Silver Star medal, the nation’s third highest honor for combat valor, during the change of command ceremony for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Aug. 24.

Lurz was assigned to 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., during combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom during the time of his award. While on his deployment to Helmand province in Afghanistan from July 2010 to April 2011, Lurz led his team and mentored 7th Afghan Commandos of Kandak, Afghanistan.

Throughout the duration of the deployment, Lurz and his team thwarted more than 100 enemy attacks, according to the Silver Star citation. He led his team into the heart of the insurgency and while under heavy volumes of insurgent machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire, he directed the fires of his men and the commandos against the enemy’s most lethal positions neutralizing more than 100 insurgents and countless improvised explosive devices.

“The conditions that I earned this award are not unique,” Lurz said. “Anybody on the team could’ve done it, all I did was manage the talent, they did all the work.”

During an enemy ambush, his team leader was wounded and evacuated. Lurz then took charge and seamlessly led his team into enemy strongholds. Throughout multiple attacks Lurz remained calm, communicating to higher echelons and simultaneously coordinating supporting fires, effectively suppressing numerous attacks. During a nighttime helicopter assault his aircraft came under heavy fire and upon landing Lurz directed the team and Afghan commandos into a defendable position. He directed an assault and attempted to extract the team. When the enemy maneuvered into ambush positions to prevent the extract, Lurz called for close air support and conducted a counterattack killing several insurgents and allowing the team to pull out under a heavy volume of fire.

“Because of operators like Gunnery Sgt. Lurz we’re building governance [in Afghanistan], we’re empowering the people to be able to make decisions for themselves and provide their own security,” said retired Maj. Gen. Paul E. Lefebvre, former MARSOC commander. “Most people don’t know how well that’s going, and that’s too bad.”

Article by Staff Sgt. Robert Storm, Marine Corps Systems Command