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Axel H. Castellanos , Jr.


AWARDS AND CITATIONS

Bronze Star

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Awarded for actions during the Global War on Terror

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Executive Order 11046, 24 August 1962, takes pleasure in presenting the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" to Staff Sergeant Axel H. Castellanos, Jr., United States Army, for valorous and meritorious actions while engaged in direct combat operations in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM on 4 August 2011. His courage and selfless dedication in a combat zone under the most extreme of circumstances, greatly contributed to the fight against the War on Terrorism. His actions reflect great credit upon himself, Task Force PEACEKEEPER, Combined Joint Task Force-1 and the United States Central Command. NARRATIVE TO ACCOMPANY AWARD: On 4 August 2011, Staff Sergeant Axel H. Castellanos, Jr., a Squad Leader for the 127th Military Police Company in direct support of 2-35 Infantry Regiment, valorously distinguished himself while under enemy fire in the Pech River Valley, Kunar Province of Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Castellanos' squad (Power 2-2) was selected as a quick reaction force to provide immediate security and assist a humanitarian aid convoy that was ambushed on route Rhode Island and in danger of being overrun by enemy combatants. Immediately upon their arrival, his squad started to receive small arms fire from both flanks. Once on location, Staff Sergeant Castellanos was informed of a wounded Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) Officer and a fuel truck that was abandoned by the humanitarian aid convoy as they fled the kill zone. Staff Sergeant Castellanos assessed the battlefield and made the decision to dismount a small element that would be responsible for recovering the wounded AUP Officer. He designated a primary aid and litter NCO to provide lifesaving treatment and they bounded away from the safety of the armored vehicles to the casualty. The casualty was over 40 meters in front of the first vehicle as Staff Sergeant Castellanos arrived to him. Staff Sergeant Castellanos provided smoke for concealment as his Soldier dressed and bandaged the casualty's wound. Staff Sergeant Castellanos took cover behind an abandoned fuel truck and returned heavy volumes of fire on the enemy combatants as they advanced on his position, neutralizing two enemy fighters with his rifle. The enemy utilized the dense cornfields to advance to within 30 meters of Staff Sergeant Castellanos' southern flank and was targeting the fuel truck with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Two enemy rocket-propelled grenades flew past Staff Sergeant Castellanos and impacted 25 meters from him on a cliff face directly north. As Staff Sergeant Castellanos aggressively attempted to suppress the overwhelming enemy force with his M203 grenade launcher, his position began to receive small arms fire from as close as 10 meters away. Staff Sergeant Castellanos removed a fragmentation grenade from his vest and threw it at a team of enemy fighters as they advanced on the fuel truck. The deafening explosion of Staff Sergeant Castellanos' grenade temporarily disrupted the enemy advance and created a window of opportunity for his Soldier and the wounded AUP Officer to egress the kill zone and into the safety of the first Mine Resistant Ambush Protectant vehicle. Staff Sergeant Castellanos moved to his vehicle and sent a situation report to his Platoon Leader as he reassessed the tactical situation. Again, Staff Sergeant Castellanos selflessly vacated his armored vehicles as he and a Soldier moved under enemy fire to the abandoned fuel truck. As he provided support by fire, his Soldier entered the fuel truck and removed it from the center of the road. AUP Officers who were uninjured secured the fuel truck and removed it from the kill zone as Staff Sergeant Castellanos' squad expeditiously evacuated the casualty. Their movement was soon halted by an unknown U.S. Convoy. The radio frequency of the convoy was also unknown, so Staff Sergeant Castellanos bravely dismounted his vehicle and bounded under enemy fire with no cover or concealment between him and the cornfields occupied by numerous enemy combatants. As he arrived at the last vehicle, Staff Sergeant Castellanos informed the Soldiers in the unknown convoy that they needed to create a path so that his squad could evacuate their casualty. As Staff Sergeant Castellanos returned to his vehicle, his rifle ran out of ammunition. Staff Sergeant Castellanos removed his M9 pistol and eliminated an enemy fighter that was advancing on him less than 10 meters away. As he entered his vehicle, U.S. Air Force F-16's dropped one 500-pound bomb on multiple enemy fighters and conducted a danger close 20-mm. strafing run in the cornfields 25 meters from his southern flank in order to repel the overwhelming enemy force and support the casualty evacuation. During the hour long ambush, Staff Sergeant Castellanos' squad suffered zero casualties and zero injuries to civilians. Staff Sergeant Castellanos' distinguished tactical proficiency and sound judgment saved the life of a wounded AUP Officer and denied the enemy from securing the fuel truck. His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect distinct credit upon himself, the 127th Military Police Company, and the United States Army.

Action Date: August 4, 2011

Service: Army

Rank: Staff Sergeant

Company: 127th Military Police Company

Battalion: 716th Military Police Battalion