• Home
  • Army Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis

Army Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis

Died August 28, 2013 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

24, of Staten Island, N.Y.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), Fort Drum, N.Y.;died Aug. 28 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device, small-arms fire and indirect fire.

Drum soldier who saved Polish officer tapped for Silver Star

By Joe Gould

A Fort Drum, N.Y., soldier killed in Afghanistan died shielding a Polish soldier from a suicide bomber during an assault on their base that involved grenades, mortars, rockets and a 3,000-pound bomb.

Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, of the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), stepped into the path of an unnamed Polish officer, blocking him from the suicide vest of an insurgent who had raided Forward Operating Base Ghazni.

“In emotional interviews with investigators, the Polish officer repeatedly praised SSG Ollis and credited him with saving his life,” according to an Army account of the Aug. 28 action obtained by Army Times.

The 24-year-old from Staten Island, N.Y., has since been nominated for a Silver Star, the third highest military decoration for valor, according to an Army source. The nomination is working its way through Ollis’ chain of command in Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, we lost a great American there from 10th Mountain Division in that attack, but the defenders did extraordinarily well,” said Army Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the No. 2 commander for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Milley is a former commander of the 10th Mountain Division.

Milley called the Ghazni defense a “tough fight,” but said, “the enemy completely failed in achieving any kind of operational or strategic effect.”

In a ceremony on Sunday at the base, four American and two Polish army soldiers were recognized for valor in the attack, which began when a car bomb breached the base’s eastern perimeter wall, allowing 10 insurgents in suicide vests to infiltrate the compound.

The attack
The massive blast from the car bomb reverberated across the post at 3:54 a.m. on Aug. 28, kicking off an assault from the east, west and north sides, as insurgents rained mortar shells, shoulder-fired rockets and hand grenades from outside the post, according to Army accounts.

Though it’s highly unlikely insurgents would have been able to overrun the base, it holds strategic importance as ISAF’s local headquarters and a traffic hub to Gardez and Khost to the east.

Troops who headed to the blast site to aid the wounded found insurgents in suicide vests with assault rifles who had poured through the breach.

The two sides locked in 10 minutes of close combat as coalition troops fought through gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

Meanwhile, Ollis — who first accounted for his men in a bunker — raced toward the bomb blast’s massive white smoke plume and the sound of gunfire.

Ollis linked up with a Polish officer he did not know and then with a team of special forces soldiers who had killed eight of the insurgents wearing suicide vests.

A ninth suicide bomber emerged from behind a group of containers, threw a grenade and was killed.