An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | Aug. 8, 2013

Airman’s actions in support of OEF result with AFCAM

By Staff Sgt. Anthony Hyatt Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

On April 9, 2012, a U.S. Navy Seal Team was conducting a village stability patrol mission along a ledge of a mountain in Afghanistan. During their mission, the team was engaged by PKM machine gun and AK47 small arms fire - resulting in one of their team members being shot in the leg.

"We were pretty much going out every day," said Tech. Sgt. Clifford Hartley, 628th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler who was at the time a staff sergeant and deployed with the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan. "While I was supporting Task Force Trident [U.S. Navy Seal Team 2], our mission was to find improvised explosive devices and to clear out Taliban members from villages."

The 30-year old technical sergeant, who has been in the K-9 career field for nearly eight years, was serving on his fourth deployment. But, this six-month deployment was not as normal as his previous deployments.

Hartley was about halfway through his deployment when he was approached to join Navy Seal Team 2. In early April, Seal Team 2 lost their dog after an improvised explosive device detonated.

"The Navy Seal Team requested someone to fill the vacant spot and I just happened to be the one who answered the door," Hartley said jokingly. "It really didn't affect me. I've been outside the wire many times before."

He and 8-year old, military working dog Arton were now serving as a patrol/explosive detector dog handler team supporting Task Force Trident (U.S. Navy Seal Team 2) conducting Village Stability Patrol missions in Afghanistan.

During their patrol missions, Hartley, MWD Arton and a Navy Seal EOD tech, would be in the front of the 10-person squad.

"We were clearing IEDs, so if my dog showed interest or response on a possible threat - the EOD tech was right there to take care of it with his equipment," Hartley added.

It was approximately 11:50 a.m. (local Afghanistan time) in the vicinity of Ulgay Village when the April 9, 2012 event occurred.

The platoon was moving northeast along a footpath connecting the Ulgay Village and Khvajeh Village Arghandab District, Zabul province Afghanistan. Upon rounding a bend near a large rock outcropping, the front of the Seal patrol was immediately engaged by effective PKM machine gun rounds by more than eight enemy fighters, according to one of Seal Team members.

The main element was engaged from their right flank. Hartley, the EOD tech and another Seal were pinned down hard on the front side of the mountain. The third member was shot in the leg directly behind Hartley.

The EOD tech immediately ran to the third person's position on the ledge and dragged him to small cover, while Hartley positioned himself between the enemy forces and laid down covering fire.

"I've been around gun fire before and everyone reacts differently," said Hartley. "A lot of people would automatically take cover or freeze. The shots were bouncing of the rocks behind me."

While the EOD tech performed medical treatments on the wounds of the third member, Hartley spotted two enemy fighters shooting at them from their immediate left flank.

"I kept my head on a swivel and noticed the two Taliban fighters popping up," Hartley recalled. "I took a few shots with my M-4 Carbine and hit the rocks in front of them. The enemy stood up again and I shot him in the chest and he went down."

The EOD tech still had to transfer the wounded Seal to better cover to finish first responder buddy aid and to stop the bleeding. During this movement, Hartley laid down effective cover fire and shot more than 100 rounds toward enemy positions ensuring the Seals made it safely.

"You go through so much training, but you really never know what you're going to do [when the situation arises]," said Hartley.

"Without a doubt, Staff Sgt. Hartley's heroics that day kept myself and the other Seal from sustaining any more injuries. Without Sgt. Hartley's swift and selfless actions, I could not have worked on the Seal's injury and stopped his bleeding - ultimately saving his life," according to the EOD tech.

"Tech. Sgt. Hartley is the epitome of a warrior," said Capt. Jonathan Blount, 628th SFS Operations Officer. "His actions under fire saved a life and in my eyes, he is a hero. Cliff is a fun loving NCO that keeps the mood light, but when the bullets start flying, I would not want anyone else watching my back."

Tech. Sgt. Clifford Hartley, 628th Security Forces Squadron, was awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal July 24, 2013, at Joint Base Charleston - Air Base, S.C. for his actions in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Hartley is a military brat and has been in the Air Force for more than 10 years. He has already received the Bronze Star for his achievements during his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan as a K-9 MWD handler and is currently being nominated for another Bronze Star and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for being attached with Navy Seal Team 2.

In September, Hartley will go on his fifth deployment and serve as the K-9 Program manager at Qatar. As the program manager, Hartley will visit FOBs throughout Afghanistan to monitor Air Force K-9 teams to ensure the teams are safe, being properly trained and utilized, and receiving the proper equipment.