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Cindy Mote, the mother of Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote, receives the Navy Cross citation from Maj. Gen. Mark A. Clark, the commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 18. Mote was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for actions while deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Starr

Two fallen Marines with 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion awarded Navy Cross

23 Jan 2014 | Lance Cpl. Joshua Murray

Two Marines from 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross Jan. 18, for actions while deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

Major Gen. Mark A. Clark, the commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, presented the awards to the families of Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote and Capt. Matthew P. Manoukian respectively during a ceremony at 1st MSOB Headquarters.

Both Mote, of El Dorado, Calif., and Manoukian, from Los Altos Hills, Calif., were assigned to Marine Special Operations Team 8133, Marine Special Operations Company C, 1st Marines Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Regiment, U.S Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when they came under intense enemy fire from an Afghan uniformed police officer attacking from inside the perimeter of their tactical operations center.

“Mote reacted quickly and courageously to the attack,” Clark said during the ceremony. “ His actions saved the lives of his fellow Marines.”

Mote, an explosive ordnance disposal technician courageously exposed himself to a hail of gunfire drawing attention away from others and halting the shooter's pursuit of his comrades. In his final act of bravery, he boldly remained in the open and engaged the shooter, no less than five meters in front of him. He courageously pressed the assault on the enemy until he received further wounds and fell mortally wounded. Mote's heroic and selfless actions halted the enemy assault on his teammates enabling their escape, which ultimately forced the enemy to withdraw. Mote's selfless act safeguarded his comrades from being injured or killed.

“We are so grateful for your support,” said Mote’s father, Russell Mote.  “This is such an honor, but I wish it hadn’t happened this way.  The recognition of Sky is good for his battalion and that’s who this ceremony is really for.” 

Major Gen. Mark A. Clark said the bravery of Mote and Manoukian was a continuation of the brave choices they made in the beginning, to choose a harder road fraught with peril, in order to have a chance at victory.

Clark said the men were participating in the command's new strategy of building relationships with tribal leaders and Afghan security forces to stabilize the Puzeh area.

"Their efforts and their sacrifice were not in vain," Clark said. "Puzeh is still stable today."

Manoukian, the team commander, was working in the operations center when the initial attack commenced with AK-47 fire ripping through walls and partitions of the operations room. He immediately exposed himself to further enemy fire and commanded his Marines to maneuver to safety as he engaged the enemy. With one of the two Marines now critically wounded, Manoukian courageously drew heavy fire upon himself, disrupting the enemy pursuit of his comrades and providing them the security needed to get to safety, ultimately saving their lives. Outgunned, Manoukian continued to engage the enemy until he fell mortally wounded to the shooter's overwhelming fire.

“We are deeply honored and humbled to accept the Navy Cross on behalf of our dearly beloved son and brother,” said Manoukian’s father, Socrates Manoukian.  “Our Matthew’s courage and dedication inspires us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world.”

The Navy Cross is the second highest valor award, second to the Medal of Honor and must be approved by the Secretary of the Navy before being awarded. Mote and Manoukian are the third and fourth Marines in MARSOC's seven year history to be awarded the Navy Cross, and are the 15th and 16th Marines to receive this prestigious award for actions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.