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.
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.