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Fallen Fort Drum soldier will receive Polish military honor for saving soldier during attack


FORT DRUM — A fallen 10th Mountain Division soldier will be honored posthumously by the Polish government after saving a Polish soldier by stepping in front of an insurgent with a suicide vest.

Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, of the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, will receive the Gold Medal of the Polish Armed Forces.

The award recognizes the service foreign civilians and military personnel provide to the Polish Army. Polish and American officials are scheduling a time to present the medal.

Talking to investigators after the Aug. 28 attack on Forward Operating Base Ghazni, the Polish officer repeatedly praised and credited Sgt. Ollis with saving his life.

The Watertown Daily Times on Wednesday morning received a copy of a U.S. military summary of the attack, in which a Polish soldier also was killed and dozens of Polish and Afghan personnel were injured. The summary highlights Sgt. Ollis’s heroics that afternoon, as he defended the base with other coalition forces, saving hundreds of lives.

“SSG Ollis could have remained with his men in the bunker. He did not,” the summary said. “He could have returned to his room to secure his gear. He did not. He made the conscious decision to move to the sound of the gunfire.”

The attack started on the base’s east side with a massive explosion of a car containing 2,860 to 3,960 pounds of explosives. Immediately after the blast, which reverberated across the base, 10 insurgents wearing suicide vests and carrying assault rifles filed into the base. Insurgents also attacked the base’s west and north sides.

At the time of the initial blast, Sgt. Ollis was with team members at the base’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation building. After going quickly to a nearby bunker, believing a mortar had landed nearby, the team returned to the building to check for wounded personnel. After returning with the team to the bunker, Sgt. Ollis split off to help defend the installation.

Arriving at a barrier closest to the base’s airfield access road, he met a Polish officer he did not know, and the two paired up to move toward the airfield, where other special forces personnel already had had engagements with the insurgents.

At the time of their arrival, eight of 10 insurgents had been killed, and a ninth was killed shortly after approaching the group with a grenade.

Just after the ninth attacker was killed, a 10th insurgent approached from a different angle, with Sgt. Ollis the closest person to him.

Moving toward the insurgent, Sgt. Ollis stepped in front of the Polish officer, the second closest to the insurgent, before the attacker’s vest detonated, mortally wounding Sgt. Ollis and hurling him several feet.

The narrative said Sgt. Ollis was declared dead after being taken to a nearby aid station.

The Polish award for Sgt. Ollis, 24, of Staten Island, is in addition to his nomination for the U.S. military’s Silver Star, its third highest decoration for valor, first reported by Army Times. That request is working its way through Sgt. Ollis’s chain of command.

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