Pendleton staff sgt. talks about Silver Star
By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jul 28, 2012 12:22:35 EDT
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — There is little, if any, hint today of the combat wound Staff Sgt. Paul Worley sustained two years ago when he led his squad with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, in an intense battle with the Taliban.
“It’s just the day when I zigged — and I should have zagged — and took one,” he said.
But the memory of his actions in Afghanistan on June 12, 2010, has not faded. Worley received the Silver Star, the third-highest award for combat valor, during a July 17 ceremony here.
“I’m honored to have it. I accept it on behalf of the Marines who were with me,” said Worley, an Eden, N.C., native and 12-year veteran.
The award ceremony was brief — perhaps 10 minutes — but the combat action it cited stretched over five long, hot hours in the Taliban-heavy Laki district of Helmand province.
Two of his men were shot, one suffering a serious chest wound.
Maj. Gen. Melvin Spiese, deputy commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force, hailed Worley’s heroism under fire.
“He did everything that we have taught and trained him to do, which is exactly why we have squad leaders,” Spiese told the audience, which included Worley’s family and hundreds of Marines with 3/1.
Worley, a veteran of four combat tours in Iraq, was on his first deployment to Afghanistan.
The squad, with Weapons Company’s Combined Anti-Armor Team 1, had been patrolling for three days. About 2 a.m., they set out to hunt for enemy forces, which had been lobbing rockets and mortars at Marine and Afghan forces. Then came the attack.
“It was well-coordinated. We were receiving fire from three different directions,” said Sgt. Jacob Schmitt, 25, a Weapons Company sniper. “It got a little hairier when they started firing the heavier rockets at us.”
Worley didn’t even realize he had been hit until he saw blood: A round had struck his thigh.
“I was so full of adrenaline, it really didn’t matter,” he said. He pulled down his trousers, patched up the wound — dismissing the platoon corpsman to help the more seriously wounded — and continued to resupply his men’s waning supply of ammunition and direct their fire.
On the radio, a lieutenant relayed that higher command wanted him evacuated. “I told them f--- no, that I was busy,” Worley said.
A few minutes later, a captain repeated the order only to get the same answer. Then the battalion commander got on the line.
With Taliban forces still in the fight, Worley’s main concern was to get the medevac helicopter in to evacuate the seriously wounded and lead his Marines through the fight. It wasn’t until later that night that Worley was finally taken to base camp. But after a week at Camp Dwyer, he snuck out and made his way back to Patrol Base Karma.
“It’s what Marines do,” he said.