Camp Lejeune, N.C. -- “I think sometimes the worst situations bring out the best in people, and that day a lot of people showed their worth,” Staff Sgt. Andrew Seif said, recalling the day he selflessly faced enemy fire to save a mortally wounded friend in July 2012.
Seif, a critical skills operator with 2d Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, was awarded the Silver Star Medal during a ceremony at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 6, 2015, for his actions against the enemy in Badghis Province, Afghanistan.
As a small child in Holland, Mich., Seif played soldier in his back yard, fighting cousins and friends armed with stick rifles. As he got older, Seif knew college was not the route he wanted to take and he joined the Marine Corps just weeks after he graduated high school to be a combat engineer.
Seif deployed once in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., before his desire for something different led him down a new path. In 2010, he successfully completed MARSOC’s Individual Training Course and joined 2d MSOB.
On July 24, 2012, during his first deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Seif and his teammate, Sgt. Justin Hansen, were closing in on one of western Afghanistan’s improvised explosive device experts. The bomb maker was responsible for many International Security Assistance Force and NATO forces casualties including U.S. and Italian forces.
“People had been (tracking) him for a while; we had an opportunity and we took it,” Seif said, describing the mission that put him and Hansen outside a small compound and engaged in a firefight with several enemy personnel. “A lot of things go into planning an operation and we are always weighing whether not the risk is worth it. We’ve got men on our (Honor) Wall (memorial) that he’s potentially taken the lives of, so this one was absolutely worth it.”
While Seif and Hansen maneuvered to prevent their target’s escape, the team came under fire and Hansen was injured. Seif rushed to his teammate and treated his wounds while securing the area and returning small-arms fire.
“Even though Justin was hit, he was very much still in the game,” Seif said. “He motioned to where the (shooter) was, so I assaulted through.”
Seif refused to wait for reinforcements, tactfully maneuvered across exposed ground and entered the compound to complete the mission. After clearing the entire compound alone, Seif hurried back outside and moved Hansen to a safer position. He treated Hansen’s wounds while returning fire against a persistent enemy force.
Hansen succumbed to his wounds, but Seif said if not for his teammate the mission would have failed.
“He was larger than life,” Seif said. “If you didn’t know him, you heard about him. He was a straight shooter, called it like it was, was willing to push a fight and he understood the circumstances.”
During the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, presented the medal to Seif and praised his character.
“The fact that (Seif) continued to fight through the objective to get Sgt. Hansen taken care of, putting himself in the line of fire, speaks volumes to who he is and demonstrates that he would never leave a Marine behind,” Osterman said.
Seif remained humble after receiving the award, crediting the achievement to everyone involved in the mission that day.
“There are definitely some individuals out there who deserve (the medal) just as well,” Seif said. “But it’s an honor to accept it on the behalf of the unit and on behalf of the rest of the men.”