Project Hero: MSG Anthony Pryor, Silver Star Posted by: McQ
on Saturday, April 01, 2006
Today we honor a member of the storied 5th Special Forces Group, MSG Anthony "Tony" Pryor who won the Silver Star in Afghanistan.
Master Sergeant Anthony S. Pryor, a team sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th SF Group, received the Silver Star Medal for his gallantry in combat. During the raid, he single-handedly eliminated four enemy soldiers, one in unarmed combat, all while he was under intense automatic weapons fire and suffering from a crippling injury.
That's the synopsis. The details of the story are harrowing. One of his other team members gives us some of the details. You want grit, determination, skill and professionalism? Consider being in MSG Pryor's position:
"About a year ago ... I said to Tony, 'What did you think when that fellow knocked your night-vision goggles off, pulled your arm out of its socket and was twisting it, all while you were fighting with your other hand?'" Lambert said. "And (Pryor) said, 'It's show time.' He must have meant what he said, because he earned that Silver Star. Think about a cold, black night; think about fighting four guys at the same time, and somebody jumps on your back and starts beating you with a board. Think about the problems you'd have to solve—and he did."
"This is the singular hand-to-hand combat story that I have heard from this war," Lambert added. "When it came time to play, he played, and he did it right."
It began as a night mission to clear a couple of compounds which were suspected of harboring al Queda and Taliban fighters.
On Jan. 23, 2002, Pryor's company received an order from the U.S. Central Command to conduct its fourth combat mission of the war—a sensitive site exploitation of two compounds suspected of harboring Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Because of the presence of women and children within the compounds, Pryor said, aerial bombardment was not an option. Once on the ground, the company was to search for key leadership, communications equipment, maps and other intelligence.
Sergeant First Class Scott Neil, an SF weapons sergeant, was one of Pryor's team members that night. He found himself momentarily pinned down by a sudden hail of bullets after the team's position had been compromised.
"After the initial burst of automatic weapons fire, we returned fire in the breezeway," Neil said. "After we heard the words 'Let's go,' everything just kind of kicked in."
Moments later, though, the team became separated in the confusion, but with the situation desperate for the SF soldiers against a determined and larger-than-expected enemy force, Pryor and one of his teammates kept moving forward, room to room. They began entering a room together, but another enemy soldier outside the room distracted Pryor's team member, who stayed outside the room to return fire.
Pryor first encountered an enemy soldier who charged out of the room; he assisted in eliminating him. Then, without hesitating, Pryor moved into the room. There he found two enemy soldiers at the back of the room firing their weapons at his comrades who were still outside the compound.
"I went in, and there were some windows that they were trying to get their guns out of to shoot at our guys that hadn't caught up yet," Pryor said. "So I went from left to right, indexed down and shot those guys up. I realized that I was well into halfway through my magazine, so I started to change magazines. Then I felt something behind me, and thought it was (one of my teammates)—that's when things started going downhill."
Pryor said it was an enemy soldier, a larger-than-normal Afghan, who had sneaked up on him. "There was a guy behind me, and he whopped me on the shoulder with something and crumpled me down." Pryor would later learn that he had sustained a broken clavicle and a dislocated shoulder during the attack.
"Then he jumped up on my back, broke my night-vision goggles off and starting getting his fingers in my eyeballs. I pulled him over, and when I hit the ground, it popped my shoulder back in," Pryor said. When he stood up, he was face-to-face with his attacker. Pryor eliminated the man during their hand-to-hand struggle.
Pryor had now put down four enemy soldiers, but the fight wasn't over yet. "I was feeling around in the dark for my night-vision goggles, and that's when the guys I'd already killed decided that they weren't dead yet."
Pryor said that it was then a race to see who could get their weapons first, and the enemy soldiers lost. He left the room and rejoined the firefight outside. When the battle ended, 21 enemy soldiers had been killed. There were no American deaths, and Pryor was the only soldier injured.
Combat doesn't get any more basic than that which MSG Pryor faced. And he not only succeeded but showed the valor appropriate for the awarding of the Silver Star. As one of his teammates said:
"Tony is getting a Silver Star because he entered a room by himself, and he engaged the enemy by himself," said Sergeant First Class James Hogg, an SF medical sergeant on Pryor's team. "He elevated his pure soldier instinct and went to the next level, and that's what this award is recognizing. He didn't stop after his initial battle, and continued to lead."
After his single combat and injury, MSG Pryor continued to lead his team, something which should suprise no one familiar with Special Forces soldiers:
Leading his soldiers, despite his injuries, is something Neil said that Pryor couldn't seem to stop doing. "As soon as he left that room, he came running up to me and wanted to know if everybody was okay," Neil said. "He never mentioned anything about what went on ... and during the whole objective and as the firefight continued, he never stopped. He was always mission-first, and that's what his Silver Star is all about."
America's finest, epitomized by the leadership and valor of MSG Tony Pryor.
PROJECT HERO is an ongoing attempt to highlight the valor of our military as they fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We constantly hear the negative and far to little of the positive and inspiring stories coming out of those countries. This is one small attempt to rectify that. If you know of a story of valor you'd like to see highlighted here (published on Saturday), please contact us. And we'd appreciate your link so we can spread the word.
Just sayin’ is all, but as long as we’re honoring winners of Silver Stars and all ought we not dig deeper into the facts than merely quoting the citation? After all, John Kerry’s Silver Star citation looks good on paper.
I suspect most of the current crop of heros earning such awards could stand up quite well to such scrutiny.