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Portraits in Courage: SSgt. Lewis

  • Published
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
As the Mosul offensive commenced, Staff Sgt. Christopher Lewis and the U.S. Navy SEAL Team in which he was embedded were tasked to advise, assist, and accompany Kurdish Peshmerga forces in order to clear two villages held by heavily entrenched ISIS fighters.

On Oct. 20, 2016, Lewis and his team escorted the partner force into enemy-held territory where they were quickly ambushed from three locations and engaged in a ten-hour firefight. As his team attempted to break contact with the enemy, the automated .50 caliber turret system on Lewis’ vehicle became disabled.

In the midst of withering grenade, mortar, and small arms fire, Lewis systematically engaged the enemy in multiple locations from the open turret. He held this vulnerable position for hours despite direct enemy fire impacting within inches of him.

While the fight raged all around him, Lewis directed F-15Es and B-52s to conduct airstrikes within 400 meters of his team, eliminating enemy defensive fighting positions and fighters moving toward their position. After successfully engaging multiple targets and suppressing enemy fire, Lewis identified, engaged, and destroyed an enemy vehicle-borne improvised explosive device barreling toward his team at high speed - exploding within 100 meters of the convoy.

Moving out of the line of fire to recover, the convoy was ambushed again by enemy fire from a concealed tunnel entrance only 100 meters away. They maneuvered away from the attack as Lewis prepared to direct an airstrike on the building. During the movement, the team in the lead vehicle identified an improvised explosive device (IED) ahead and halted the convoy.

As the convoy backed away, another IED detonated, triggering seven subsequent explosions that rocked the team and mortally wounded one U.S. service member. Without hesitation, Lewis leapt out of the turret and ran across the top of the truck to assist the wounded.

Lewis controlled the casualty evacuation on the radio while simultaneously providing medical care to his teammates. While he moved his severely wounded teammate and established a hasty helicopter landing zone, he also worked with aircraft to assess and eliminate a second vehicle-borne threat before it reached his team.

Over the course of the hours-long firefight, Lewis engaged the enemy at close range on three occasions within 100 meters and directed four precise airstrikes, which provided his team crucial air coverage and eliminated more than 20 enemy forces. He has been recommended for the Silver Star Medal for his actions.