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USO Honors Service Members’ Leadership

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

NEW YORK, Dec. 8, 2011 – Medal of Honor recipient Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in August, a soldier and an Air Force search-and-rescue team member who repeatedly exposed themselves to enemy fire to save their wounded comrades, and a Coast Guardsman who led maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf received the USO’s most prestigious leadership award last night.

The USO presented its George Van Cleave Military Leadership Awards at its 50th annual gala here to one member of each service who demonstrated outstanding commitment and exceptional service, sacrifice and achievement.

In addition to Meyer, this year’s recipients included Army Sgt. 1st Class Ty Carter, the late Navy Chief Special Operator Brian Bill, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael A. Brait, and Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Jason Mortiz.

Here are their stories:

Army Sgt. 1st Class Ty Carter, a section leader assigned to 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, was honored for distinguishing himself while serving as a scout in Afghanistan. When his fellow soldiers and a nearby combat outpost came under attack from a battalion-sized enemy force, Carter, a specialist at the time, ran repeatedly through heavy enemy fire to bring critical ammunition to his position.

Armed only with only an M4 carbine, he beat back the assault force for several hours. Despite being wounded, he disregarded his own personal safety to assist a critically wounded comrade. He administered first aid and carried the wounded soldier through withering enemy fire. Throughout the battle, Carter exposed himself to the enemy no fewer than six times as he crossed treacherous ground where eight fellow soldiers were killed.

Carter’s cavalry troop is slated to deploy next spring.

Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer , who received the Medal of Honor during Sept. 15 ceremonies at the White House, is the third living recipient of the nation's highest honor for valor since the Vietnam War and the first living Marine honoree in 41 years. Deployed twice for combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Meyer gained national attention for his heroic actions in Afghanistan’s Kunar province with an embedded training team.

Entering a “kill zone” five times during a six-hour firefight with well-armed insurgents, Meyer extracted the bodies of four fallen comrades, evacuated the wounded and provided essential aid despite his own extensive shrapnel wounds. Ultimately, he single-handedly turned the tide of battle, saving the lives of 13 U.S. service members and 23 Afghan soldiers.

In addition to heroism, presence of mind amid chaos and death, and unselfish devotion to his comrades in the face of danger, Meyer also demonstrated a deep sense of humility. When President Barack Obama honored him, Meyer requested simultaneous commemorative services at other locations to honor the memory of his colleagues killed during the ambush.

Chief Special Warfare Operator Brian Bill was one of 30 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan Aug. 6 when a Taliban fighter shot down their helicopter during a mission to rescue Army Rangers locked in an intense firefight.

His USO honor, however, was presented for the way he lived his life -- personifying exceptional leadership, team spirit, courage and heart.

Graduating from Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL Training, the world’s most difficult military training, he quickly excelled as a SEAL operator in combat, coordinating and leading 60 direct-action missions, often under fire. After completing a seven-month advanced SEAL Operator Selection Course, Bill earned three Bronze Star Medals with the combat “V” device for Valor. Quoting from his second Bronze Star citation, “As an assistant team leader and sniper on a helo/vehicle interdiction mission, his instant quick thinking ensured the safety of the helo assault force and resulted in elimination of all the enemy fighters.” As noted in his third Bronze Star citation during Operation Enduring Freedom, during a night raid against a heavily barricaded enemy position, Bill fought his way under fire to pull a teammate back to safety.

Bill was honored as a gallant warrior who fought with valor and died with honor.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael A. Brait was honored for demonstrating exceptional leadership and heroism as a special tactics combat controller in Afghanistan. He has maintained more than 3,000 hours of combat search-and-rescue coverage for an elite special operations force and provided helicopter services for 48 resupply missions, including crucial humanitarian assistance to a local Afghanistan village.

During a four-day operation in an insurgent village, Brait was the lead joint terminal attack controller for a combined U.S. Army Special Forces operational detachment. In that role, he conducted a critical nighttime water resupply for severely dehydrated forces, despite extreme heat and the threat of enemy ambush. The following morning, he responded to an attack on naval special forces, using an overhead Predator and Hellfire missile against the insurgents. While under heavy machine gun fire from multiple locations, he helped evacuate injured personnel while continuing to identify and attack enemy forces.

Brait also trained 140 Afghan soldiers on the front line of the U.S. security effort and led a six-month training plan to prepare combat-ready troops. For his bravery and leadership, he received the Bronze Star, Joint Service Commendation Medal and tAir Force Combat Action Medal.

Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Jason Mortiz distinguished himself as a leader and superior performer while assigned to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, 5th U.S. Fleet, as the force intelligence officer in support of maritime security operations throughout the region.

His duties included monitoring and analyzing terrorism, smuggling, narcotics and geo-political issues for command decision-making. Moritz also coordinated training and advisory missions with counterpart services throughout the region. The Iraqi program he helped develop and implement was the first of its kind for the new Iraqi military. He was lauded for increasing the command’s situational awareness of regional events, for his sensitivity to the region’s volatile political infrastructure, and insight into cultural and local issues and for superb teamwork.

Moritz’s awards and decorations include three awards of the Coast Guard Commendation Medal. He is currently assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard, Sector New York as a ccommand duty officer.

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