For two Marines attached to Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan the morning of Sept. 8, 2009 started simple enough.
Then the world exploded around them.
Their actions during the ensuing fight earned them the nation’s second-highest award for valor. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presented Capt. Ademola D. Fabayo and Staff Sgt. Juan J. Rodriguez-Chavez with the Navy Cross during a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps on June 10.
On that fateful day, then 1st Lt. Fabayo was leading a dismounted patrol of Americans and two platoons of Afghan National Security Forces into Ganjgal Village for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. A short distance away, Rodriguez-Chavez was part of the team’s security element, ready to help his teammates if necessary.
The team was attacked by more than 50 enemy fighters, who rained down machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades from fortified positions. Four members of the team were cut off and exposed to the murderous fire.
With no regard for his own life, Fabayo pushed forward on foot into the kill zone in an attempt to regain contact, effectively engaging the enemy at close range with his M4 rifle. When a U.S. Army advisor was severely wounded, Fabayo moved from a covered position under heavy fire to assist in his recovery, helping carry him across several hundred meters of fire-swept ground.
He then gotten into an unarmored truck with another advisor and pushed back into the kill zone, ignoring the rounds striking the truck, as they attempted to rescue the fallen members of their team.
While Fabayo was attacking, Rodriguez-Chavez wasted no time getting into the fight as well. With members of his team in immediate danger, he drove a gun-truck, with one other Marine as his gunner, forward into the kill zone of the ambush with only the machine gun fires of his gunner to suppress the enemy. He repeatedly ignored the heavy enemy fire and drove the vehicle into the kill zone three times to cover the withdrawal of the force and evacuate two dozen members of the Afghan National Security Forces.
The two Marines, along with two other members of their team, then consolidated their force into an armored Humvee, Rodriguez-Chavez at the wheel and Fabayo in the gunners turret manning the machine gun. They made yet another extremely hazardous trip into the deepest point of the kill zone where Rodriguez-Chavez positioned his vehicle to shield his teammates from the intense enemy fire as they dismounted to recover the fallen warriors.
By repeatedly exposing themselves to enemy fire, the Marines demonstrated the kind of valor that should be taught to every Marine in boot camp, said Mabus during the ceremony.
Article by Sgt. Christopher Zahn, Marine Corps Base Quantico