Pararescuemen Awarded Silver Stars for Afghanistan Battles

Two pararescuemen on Dec. 13 received Silver Stars for their actions during separate battles in Afghanistan in 2018 and earlier this fall.

TSgt. Gavin Fisher, a PJ with the 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron at JBSA-Lackland, Texas, received the medal for a two-day fight in Ghazni Province. SSgt. Daniel Swensen, a PJ with the 58th Rescue Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., received the award for a two-day fight in September in Farah Province. Combined, the two PJs are credited with saving nearly 40 lives and eliminating more than 100 enemy fighters, according to an Air Force release.

“We can become so absorbed by the tales and the characters and their abilities that we can lose sight of our real-life heroes—heroes like TSgt. Gavin Fisher and SSgt. Daniel Swensen,” Pacific Air Forces boss Gen. Charles Q. Brown, who presided over the ceremony at Nellis, said in a release. “… Only 1 percent of our service men and women, representing 1 percent of the population, have received this Silver Star. So, these gentlemen are in a very exclusive club.”

Fisher was part of a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force that was on a 10-day crisis response mission to defend Ghazni City from more than 500 Taliban. He was the rear gunner of a lead vehicle in a convoy that came under attack on Aug. 11, 2018

Fisher, hit by grenade shrapnel, fired back and directed the vehicle out of danger, according to the release. While fighting off two Taliban fighters, he treated two critically injured soldiers, by stopping massive bleeding and administering blood transfusions. While treating them, he was ambushed again, and 12 more partner soldiers were wounded.

Fisher called for an evacuation and drove 75 meters through heavy fire to treat five more injured troops. He then jumped back into the rear gunner seat to continue clearing the city until a rocket-propelled grenade hit the vehicle, severely wounding him. He continued to fire and direct the team to safety before relenting to medical care, the release states.

“Getting this medal is important because it lets people know the war is still going on, and valiant efforts by men and women are still going forth,” Fisher said in the release. “People are still out there dying and fighting for each other, and it needs to be recognized.”

On Sept. 13, Swensen was attached to Army Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha 1215. His team was conducting a helicopter assault with the goal of reclaiming a district center and police headquarters controlled by the Taliban in Farah Province, according to the Air Force.

During a ground assault through a compound, the Taliban ambushed with heavy machine guns and RPGs. A grenade hit a wall near Swensen, injuring him and five teammates. The group was trapped and separated, and Swensen fired back while directing the rest of the team to safety, the release states.

He then ran through enemy fire to rescue a fallen soldier who was incapacitated, treating wounds that were life threatening. Ignoring his own injuries, Swensen loaded a soldier onto his shoulders and directed the team to a helicopter landing zone that was about 800 meters away, according to the Air Force.

He guided the casualties to cover and continued treatment. When the helicopter arrived, Swensen led the rest of the team back through the city to retrieve four additional casualties before allowing his own wounds to be treated, according to the Air Force.

“It’s weird to receive so much attention for something that I feel anyone else would’ve done on the battlefield that night,” Swensen said in the release. “I’m honored my peers think I deserve this medal.”