A Navy chief was awarded the military’s third-highest valor award on Thursday for repeatedly braving enemy fire in an area filled with improvised explosive devices to save his teammates.
Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Matthew O’Connor, a member of EOD Mobile Unit 11, received the Silver Star during a ceremony at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. Vice Adm. Scott Conn, commander of Third Fleet, presented O’Connor with the award.
Adversity under fire doesn’t test one’s character, it reveals it,” Conn said during the ceremony.
O’Connor, who joined the Navy in 2008, was serving as the EOD lead for a special operations task force fighting the Islamic State group in April at an undisclosed location. The team was tasked with checking into a facility where terrorists were known to be producing IEDs.
The chief and his team maneuvered into an enemy-held village, but were ambushed by eight fighters when they got to the facility.
After returning fire, O’Connor noticed a teammate on the ground, according to his award citation.
“With utter disregard for his own safety, Chief O’Connor advanced forward, carried his wounded teammate to cover, and then rendered lifesaving medical treatment while coordinating suppressive fire,” the citation states.
He again braved enemy fire to reach the team’s linguist, who was hurt. O’Connor then carried the first injured teammate to a casualty collection point, “under continuous enemy fire through difficult terrain,” his award citation states.
O’Connor then returned to the facility where the ambush started to conduct post-assault procedures, the citation adds. He then guided the rest of the task force across the area laden with IEDs to reach a vehicle pick-up point.
“By his bold initiative, undaunted courage and total dedication to duty, Chief O’Connor reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service,” the Silver Star citation says.