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Staff. Sgt. Norton awarded Silver Star at Fort Benning ceremony

Staff Sgt. Michael E. Norton of the 75th Ranger Regiment was awarded a Silver Star Tuesday during a ceremony at the Ranger Memorial on Fort Benning.

Norton, 27, earned the Army’s third-highest military decoration for his heroism during an assault on a heavily armed fighter camp in the mountains of Afghanistan on Aug. 4 and Aug. 5.

Ambushed by a seven- to nine-man enemy element at close range and realizing his squad could not gain fire superiority in its position, Norton ordered the squad to break contact.

After Norton successfully escaped the kill zone, he realized two of his men had been knocked unconscious by rocket-propelled grenades and were left exposed to heavy enemy fire.

Norton then braved multiple rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire and returned to the ambush zone to recover the two Rangers. In an effort to revive the unconscious soldiers, Norton shouted and shook them until they came to. The squad leader then led the soldiers back to cover, saving their lives and bringing the entire squad from the ambush.

“Any Ranger would have done the same thing,” Norton said following the award ceremony. “The Ranger Creed (says), ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade.’ There was no moment of thinking about what to do. I had to get my brothers and the most important thing in my mind was how hurt they were.”

After assessing the squad’s casualties and reorganizing the men, Norton led the way back into the fight.

Together with his platoon, Norton and his squad killed 20 enemy fighters and destroyed two anti-aircraft guns among other weapons.

The result was the destruction of an enemy headquarters camp.

Norton serves with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and has been a Ranger for five years.

He has deployed five times in support of the war on terror.

The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States during military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.

Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., presided over the ceremony and presented Norton with his award.

Mulholland also presented the following awards to members of the 3rd Ranger Battalion who distinguished themselves during the unit’s last deployment to Afghanistan from May 7 through Sept. 1:

— Seven Bronze Star medals with valor device

— 15 Army Commendation Medals with Valor device

— 19 Purple Hearts

— 10 Bronze Star Medals