TSgt Matthew P. McKenna
Operation Enduring Freedom
September 12, 2013
Technical Sergeant Matthew McKenna, a combat controller, and his Army Special Forces team, were aligned with an Afghan special operations partner force in Kandahar Province to push back determined insurgent forces from retaking control of the province.
On Sept. 12, 2013, the team was tasked to perform a high-risk clearing operation in Mirza Kalay village against a known improvised explosive device facilitation ring and enemy location with strength estimates between 40 and 60 well-armed fighters. Immediately upon infiltration the assault force was in heavy contact.
McKenna controlled air and ground assets to execute air strikes on 10 insurgents in fighting positions, preventing a catastrophic ambush. The enemy waited for reinforcements then maneuvered and initiated an ambush from dominant fighting positions, pinning down friendly elements. On several occasions and with no regard for his personal safety, McKenna moved from cover, exposing himself to intense machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, to locate friendly positions trapped by enemy fire before calling in air support.
As the battle continued friendly forces, now outnumbered three-to-one, fought for their lives against an estimated 125 insurgent reinforcements. Dangerously low on ammunition, under heavy fire and blown to the ground by enemy recoilless rifle fire, McKenna coordinated two precise air drops of ammunition and supplies to keep friendly elements in the fight and prevented a potential overrun of their positions.
McKenna’s control of air power, integration of reconnaissance assets and direct engagement with the enemy throughout the 13-hour battle ensured the survival of friendly forces against a formidable enemy, enabled his team to clear two kilometers of rough terrain, beat back three enemy counter attacks and contributed substantially to an incredible 103 enemy fighters killed in action.
McKenna was awarded the Silver Star Medal for his actions in the Kandahar Province and for his gallantry in the face of a determined enemy.
McKenna was also awarded the Bronze Star for actions throughout the entire deployment to Afghanistan, during which he controlled 431 aircraft during 23 ground combat operations, which led to the capture of 26 enemy insurgents and 67 enemy fighters killed in action.