KUNDUZ, Afghanistan – A 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier with 1st Brigade Combat Team received the Silver Star Medal – the nation’s third highest award for valor in combat – during a ceremony Jan. 26 at Forward Operating Base Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan.
First Lt. David Provencher, an infantry platoon leader with 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, is credited with saving the lives of three wounded Soldiers and refusing to leave two others who were mortally wounded.
“Today we honor a great Soldier from this battalion. His actions last June demonstrated exceptional inspired leadership, valor and heroism,” said Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, Regional Command South and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, as he presented the award. “In today’s environment, that’s what it takes: men and women who are inspired leaders, who demonstrate their wisdom in this fight.”
On the morning of June 16, Provencher’s platoon was serving as the quick reaction force for a joint U.S. Special Forces and Afghan National Army commando operation in the volatile northern Afghanistan province of Kunduz.
During the operation, the Special Forces units suffered a series of weapons malfunctions that jeopardized the mission. Provencher moved his platoon forward and established two mounted positions with his vehicles. He then dismounted and moved on foot with Cpl. Daniel Stein, a dedicated marksman, to meet up with the Special Forces team leader to gain a better idea of the battlefield situation and to identify security positions.
Provencher moved forward, exposing himself several times to enemy small-arms, machine-gun, rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire.
From his vantage point, Provencher was able to identify enemy fighters moving into positions north and west of his platoon’s location. Once again, he moved through enemy fire to emplace his men in security positions.
His rapid emplacement of troops and their precise fire halted the enemy advance, causing a lull in the fighting.
Taking advantage of this respite, a group of combat engineers consolidated their position and continued their road-clearing operations. Within minutes, however, an improvised explosive device detonated under one of the engineers’ route clearance vehicles near Provencher’s position.
Knowing the engineers may be injured, Provencher led two of his Soldiers to their overturned vehicle through intense enemy machine-gun and RPG fire. Once at the vehicle, Provencher and his men found multiple casualties and instantly began aiding the wounded Soldiers to evacuate them to safety.
As his two Soldiers worked to help the wounded troops, Provencher provided security and suppressed enemy fire. At the same time, he repositioned other members of his platoon to better secure the blast site.
With a perimeter established, Provencher gathered the three wounded engineers and led them to a medic. Before returning to his embattled troops, he ensured the wounded Soldiers were being treated and readied for evacuation.
Once back with his men, Provencher noticed a mortally wounded engineer near the overturned vehicle. He quickly recovered the Soldier and placed him in a vehicle for evacuation.
Provencher then saw a fifth engineer trapped under the gunner’s turret of the destroyed vehicle and went to recover him.
At this point, the enemy’s fire intensified.
Seemingly oblivious to the onslaught of small-arms, machine-gun and mortar fire, Provencher worked feverously to free the Soldier.
“There were two men down, and we were not about to leave them on the ground for any amount of time,” Provencher said. “Whether we were waiting for the fire to die down, or for the conditions to be set, there was no time to wait.”
The withering enemy fire drove the ANA and Special Forces back nearly 75 meters, leaving Provencher as an exposed target. Seeing that he was trying to recover the trapped engineer, enemy forces concentrated their fire on him.
Refusing to leave a fallen comrade, Provencher continued to work freeing the Soldier. Provencher’s fearless resolve inspired and revitalized his platoon to continue fighting. A recovery vehicle was brought forward to lift the wreckage off the fallen engineer.
With the deceased Soldier now free, Provencher carried him through a bombardment of mortar and RPG fire to another vehicle for evacuation.
Provencher and Soldiers of 4th Platoon remained dismounted and stayed in their positions, providing suppressive fire until the remaining engineers and their equipment moved out of the enemy’s line of fire.
With the engineers safely out of the area, Provencher’s men remounted their vehicles while he made one final security sweep, ensuring no Soldiers, weapons or equipment had been left behind.
“Lt. Provencher, your acts described in this citation exemplify the complexities in this battlefield and the enemies we face in Afghanistan,” Terry said. “Through your actions, you demonstrated the incredible abilities of today’s Soldiers.”