The U.S. Air Force released video highlights Thursday of a firefight in which Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman made a final stand to save the lives of fellow troops on a mountaintop in Afghanistan, an act of bravery that will earn him a posthumous Medal of Honor later in August.
Taken from an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead, the video shows Chapman’s relentless counterattack on al-Qaeda fighters in the battle of Takur Ghar mountain. The battle was part of Operation Anaconda, a series of engagements led by CIA paramilitary officers and U.S. special operations troops that sought to root out and destroy al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the Afghanistan’s Shah-i-Kot Valley.
Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, and six members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 had landed on the 10,000-foot peak to rescue another SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, who had been stranded there in an aborted mission just hours before.
The team almost immediately came under withering fire from three directions. Alongside SEAL Chief Britt Slabinski, Chapman charged ahead, engaging multiple enemy positions and killing two al-Qaeda fighters who were firing from a fortified position. (RELATED: Navy SEAL To Receive Medal Of Honor For Leading Mission To Rescue Fallen Teammate)
As the battle raged on, Chapman moved ahead to cover the SEAL team’s advance and began taking fire from another enemy bunker. He managed to take out the fighters in their fortified position, but was struck by a burst of gunfire that left him critically wounded and incapacitated, according to the Air Force.
Under fire and believing that Chapman had been killed, the SEAL team retreated from the peak in order to let an Air Force gunship finish off the remaining al-Qaeda fighters.
But Chapman soon regained consciousness and began to fight again. Despite grievous wounds, he engaged multiple enemy fighters for more than an hour, some in hand-to-hand combat. In his final act, Chapman provided covering fire for an incoming quick reaction force, until he was shot in the chest and killed.
President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Chapman’s wife, Valerie Nessel, and his family in a ceremony at the White House on Aug. 22. It will be the first Medal of Honor awarded to a member of the Air Force since the Vietnam War.
Slabinski, the SEAL chief who led the rescue mission, was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 24 for his actions at Takur Ghar. He is the second living SEAL to receive the nation’s highest award for valor in the Afghanistan war.
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