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Fort Drum soldier posthumously nominated for Silver Star after saving Polish soldier during attack

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A Fort Drum soldier has been nominated posthumously for the Silver Star, the military’s third highest decoration for valor, after saving a Polish soldier during an Aug. 28 battle in which he lost his life.

According to an Army report, Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, 24, of 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, saved the life of the Polish soldier by stepping in front of an insurgent wearing an explosive vest. The heroic act came during a complex insurgent attack at Forward Operating Base Ghazni, in Ghazni Province.

The Silver Star nomination was first reported Tuesday afternoon by Army Times, which cited an unnamed Army source close to the nomination. The sources told the paper that the nomination is working its way through Sgt. Ollis’s chain of command.

According to an Army narrative, the attack started with a car bomb exploding near the base’s eastern perimeter wall. Immediately after the blast, 10 insurgents wearing suicide vests filed into the compound. Instead of finding potential victims of the blast to provide first aid, the base’s initial response force was met by the insurgents, who also were armed with assault rifles.

At the same time, insurgents positioned in the mountains and along the outskirts of the base fired mortars, shoulder-fired rockets and machine guns and threw hand grenades.

About 10 minutes of close combat ensued, with the coalition forces eliminating the rushing insurgent group before it could get to more populated areas of the base.

After the initial rush, insurgents reportedly fired rockets and mortars sporadically at the base for the rest of the day. A second car bomb was found and disarmed by Afghan military before it could be used.

In addition to Sgt. Ollis, a Polish soldier died during the attack, and 10 Polish soldiers and dozens of Afghans were injured.

On Sunday, four American, two Polish and two Afghan military personnel were given awards by U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter for their role in repelling the attack.

“What these soldiers showed was not only acts of extreme courage and bravery. They displayed tremendous acts of skill, initiative and fortitude all wrapped up in one event,” said Army Col. Patrick Roberson, commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan, according to an Army report of the ceremony. “Most people probably would not have taken the risks they did – exposing themselves to the enemy in the open with no cover. But they were only thinking about engaging the enemy, not their personal safety.”

Sgt. Ollis, of Staten Island, is survived by his father, Robert, and mother, Linda, along with sisters Kimberly and Kelly and other family members.

The report confirms what Robert Ollis was told by his son’s superior officer, which he relayed to the Times earlier this month.

“He said he was a brave man, and saved a lot of lives,” Mr. Ollis recalled being told.

Among Sgt. Ollis’s career awards are the Bronze Star, four Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, the Valorous Unit Award, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, two Army Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, two Afghanistan Campaign Medals, the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Sgt. Ollis joined the Army in August 2006, and his last deployment was the third of his career.

The Army Times report can be found at http://wdt.me/Q8tx7g. The Army narrative of the attack, and more information about the award ceremony, can be seen at http://wdt.me/TMmCgG.

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