Staff Sgt. Earl Plumlee was serving in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, on Aug. 28, 2013, when he used his body as a human shield, ran toward insurgents – killing two – and carried a fellow soldier to safety.
Now a master sergeant, Plumlee was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions as part of Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Special Force Group (Airborne), with which he had been deployed since April 2013.
“The medal I’ll receive tomorrow will be presented to me, but it’s by no means mine,” Plumlee said during a media roundtable on Wednesday. “My entire team that was with me that day played a huge part in making sure that we were successful. It’s representative of the special forces regiment and of all the operators protecting this country day in and day out.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III said during a Hall of Heroes induction ceremony on Friday that of all the “individual acts of bravery and skill,” Plumlee was most proud of “linking back up” with his team.
On that day, an explosion created a 60-foot breach in Forward Operating Base Ghazni’s perimeter, allowing 10 insurgents donning “ Afghan National Army uniforms and suicide vests” to breach the base, according to the battle narrative.
Plumlee was among six special operations soldiers who “raced toward the detonation site.”
“Plumlee’s driver purposefully maneuvered the vehicle into enemy fire to shield three dismounted teammates, two of whom were injured, placing the vehicle under effective enemy fire from the front and right side,” the narrative stated.
Plumlee then shielded the driver from enemy fire, while “drawing his pistol and engaging an insurgent 15 meters to the vehicle’s right.” He ultimately killed two insurgents and later carried a wounded soldier to safety and rendered first aid. Once organizing a defensive stance, he continued to survey the area for “any remaining threats.”
“Throughout the entire engagement, Plumlee repeatedly placed himself in extreme danger to protect his team and the base, and to defeat the enemy,” the narrative stated.
Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said during Friday’s ceremony that soldiers who served alongside Plumlee speak highly of his “loyalty to his team.
“Some of them are watching today and they credit him with turning the tide of battle that day because he never waits around,” Wormuth said. “He’s a man of action.”
Plumlee was born in Clinton, Oklahoma, where he grew up on a cattle ranch. He joined the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Infantry Division as a rocket artilleryman while a junior in high school.
After high school, he joined the Marines in 2000, serving with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Plumlee served in various units, deploying to Okinawa, Japan; Bahrain; Zamboanga, Philippines, among others.
He and his wife, Terrie, have two children.
Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher A. Celiz also will receive the Medal of Honor at the ceremony.
“The only possible way I could fathom to heap a little more prestige on the Medal of Honor is to receive it in the shadow of these two men,” Plumlee said. “I belabor the point, [but] it’s just so humbling when you read both their narratives and to be a part of their story it’s an astounding weight to carry.”
The full media roundtable can be viewed online.