New light shed on Marines’ role in repelling attack on Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazi


Lance Cpl. Joel T. Murray stands as his citation for heroic achievement is read during an awards ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, July 23, 2013. Murray helped repel an attack on Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazi in Helmand province and provided life-saving medical aid to wounded Georgian soldiers. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson)

Lance Cpl. Joel Murray was aboard Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazi in Afghanistan on May 13 when a truck laden with explosives detonated outside. Three Georgian soldiers were mortally wounded, and several other Georgians and U.S. Marines sustained injuries.

Murray, an engineer equipment operator with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, quickly rushed to the site of the blast, Marine officials said. Insurgents were attempting to penetrate the security perimeter of the base, in Helmand province’s Musa Qala district. Murray killed an enemy fighter, and then applied a tourniquet to a Georgian soldier who had sustained a life-threatening leg injury, according to a Marine Corps news release. He is credited with continuing to provide security and medical aid to wounded Marines and Georgian soldiers for than two hours after the initial attack.

Murray and at least one other Marine with CLR-2 were honored July 23 at Camp Leatherneck for their heroism in thwarting the attack. Murray, of Hallsville, Texas, received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing “V.” Cpl. Ryan McSweeney, a recovery vehicle operator from Middletown Ohio, received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat “V.”

The attack on Shir Ghazi killed two Georgians immediately, and a third who died later from his injuries, according to a Reuters news report. The recent award ceremony on Camp Leatherneck, however, shed new light on the Marine Corps’ involvement in facing, and ultimately repelling, the attack.

Cpl. Ryan McSweeney helped repel an attack on Forward Operating Base Shir Ghazi on May 13. (Photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson)

McSweeney was working to recover a downed vehicle with another Marine when the blast occurred, according to another Marine news release. He is credited with checking on the other Marine, who was knocked to the ground, and then killing two enemy fighters attempting to enter the base. He provided aid to a wounded Georgian after confirming no more attackers were in the area.

A similar attack occurred several weeks later on another Georgian base in Helmand province’s Now Zad district. In that incident, seven Georgian soldiers died.

The Georgians began deploying a battalion at a time to northern Helmand in 2010, and later upped the commitment to two battalions comprising about 1,500 troops. They’ve served primarily in volatile sections of Musa Qala and Now Zad districts. They fall under the command of Regional Command-Southwest and Maj. Gen. W. Lee Miller.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. Gunny Hunt, why don’t you give the Marine praise instead of worrying about what he would of got if he was in the Army. The Marine did what he was trained to do and did it with Valor. Semper Fi.

  2. Let’s remember what these Marines did, and recognize their reactions under chaos, and the response to their duties, not so much the award they received today. Its their day to be in the light, and honored, not to be argued! Semper Fi, Marines- stay safe, keep your head down over there.

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  5. Sgt Bullcock 3/8 0331 on

    Hey Guns,

    In all reality the Lcpl doesn’t deserve shit. He did what is required of him. All the honor he deserves comes with the privilege of wearing our uniform. If he had been a grunt he would have gotten an ice cream sandwich and an attaboy from his Co Cmdr and that would have been a wrap. Stop shitting on the word heroism by giving out these distinguishing awards for what 6 years ago was just another day in the office in Falluija and Ramadi. Freakin POG.

  6. Sgt. Bullcock, Are you serious? I find it hard to believe that the Lcpl does not deserve this award. Your comment on POG’s makes me wonder how you made it to be a Sgt. It’s not just the Infantry that makes the Corps what it is, but the team work of the whole Corps. I was with 3/5 Wpns. Co , 50 Cals. from 87-91 and we must have been taught better in those days to respect the Marine no matter what the job. Get over your ego.

  7. Gunny Hunt, the Marines are lucky they got anything at all and you are one to talk because if they were E6 or above they would of been put up for a lot more than that.

  8. Sgt. Bullcock, where were you that day? This story doesn’t come close to explaining half of what these Marines did this day. Who are you decide what these Marines deserve? Stop assuming that the little you read of this war in the papers is the full detail of what actually happened.

  9. Sgt. Bullcock,
    I think it’s both rude and ignorant that you would say things about a situation you were not involved with, not have enough information to back up. Instead of making a comment at all, you should just be proud to have served with individuals who have sacrificed for their country as you have.

  10. I was at Shir Ghazay (The Correct Spelling) and it didn’t go down exactly as the citation reads. Those insurgents were gunned down by a Georgian Colonel on his way to take a dump, as well as the half-destroyed post with a Georgian PK on it. These guys were fairly close to the blast, but their command did a bad job of fact checking before dropping V awards. The few Marines on the base know what really happened, and these guys can wear these awards knowing that at least some of the citations aren’t exactly reality. This isn’t totally their fault, I blame their command.

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