New Gahanna resident Chad Clark plans to enjoy July 4 at home after spending last year in Afghanistan, where his actions as an Army staff sergeant earned him a Bronze Star Medal with Valor.

New Gahanna resident Chad Clark plans to enjoy July 4 at home after spending last year in Afghanistan, where his actions as an Army staff sergeant earned him a Bronze Star Medal with Valor.

"It's quite an award," Clark told ThisWeek. "It has been given to some great people in the past. I'm happy my name can be added to the list. I'm extremely proud to have received it."

Clark, who has been promoted to sergeant first class, has served in the Army Reserves for nine years, and he works full time at Defense Logistics Agency (formerly Defense Supply Center of Columbus).

The New Concord native purchased a home in Gahanna in March. He and his wife, April, are expecting their first child near the end of July.

"We always liked this area," Clark said. "We have a lot of friends here. I work in Whitehall, so it was a natural fit."

Clark was deployed to Afghanistan with his fellow soldiers from Alpha Company 412, serving there from December 2009 to October 2010.

The heroic actions he took on June 27, 2010, led to his medal, which he received during a March 27 ceremony at Fort Knox, Ky.

What started as a 24-hour mission into the Ghaki Valley turned into a three-day operation because of enemy attacks, according to Clark.

The Ghaki Valley, leading straight to Pakistan, is in Kubar Province in northeast Afghanistan.

Clark's team was assigned to 2nd Platoon as part of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, that was to clear out Anti-Afghan Forces (AAF) enemy combatants, most of whom are members of the Taliban.

"The villagers had no choice under the Taliban," Clark said. "We knew we had to clear the threat before we could go into the village to meet with the elders to conduct our civil-affairs mission."

In his military occupation in civil affairs, Clark's job is to interact with the civilian population to ensure they have the necessities to sustain themselves after the U.S. exits, he said.

"We set them up for success, like helping them get the teachers they need for school buildings," he said.

On June 27, 2010, Clark's day started at about 1 a.m. in a pitch-black environment, with temperatures already at 75 degrees.The civil-affairs teams carry 9-mm pistols, M4 rifles with 240 rounds, two grenades and protective gear and equipment weighing about 75 pounds.

Army 1st Lt. Doug Jones, 2nd Platoon leader, said intelligence had pointed to about 150 Taliban fighters moving equipment and weapons through the valley.Clark was quick to identify potential ambush points and directed his team and interpreter to dismount from his vehicle and move along Ghaki Road.

While moving through the village of Sangam, 2nd Platoon came under heavy fire.

Clark directed his interpreter to aid in controlling the embedded Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan Border Patrol, who accompanied 2nd Platoon.

After 2nd Platoon established a fighting position in a ditch, Clark also indentified an AAF fighting position and oriented his friendly ANA soldiers, who eliminated the threat with two rocket-propelled grenade rounds.

As Clark and his team moved east through the valley, 2nd Platoon was attacked again. He immediately established a fighting position and used suppressive fire to allow trapped soldiers to move back to cover.

When a small group of 2nd Platoon soldiers attempted to clear a building near a compound, a guided-bomb blast injured several of them.

Clark led a group to aid the injured soldiers, and he assisted in carrying them down four terraces to a medical-evacuation area.Staff Sgt. Jonathan Pelosi, of Alpha Company, provided cover while Clark helped carry the wounded soldiers to the MedEvac area at the bottom of the terraces, in an open valley for helicopter access.

After consolidating the remainder of 2nd Platoon, Clark noticed two additional soldiers were showing signs of injuries from the guided-bomb blast, so he assembled a team to move the soldiers to the helicopter landing zone.

As soon as the helicopter lifted off, AAF attacked Clark's team.Although a rocket-propelled grenade round landed a few feet from Clark, he wasn't seriously injured, and he maneuvered with the remainder of his team back to a compound.

The three-day mission resulted in more than 100 AAF killed, and the enemy network was defeated in the province.

Pelosi said Clark had stepped up to lead troops, without hesitation.

"He took charge of infantry soldiers in 2nd Platoon and friendly forces in the ANA and led troops into battle," he said.

In the award citation, Jones said Clark had risked his life in the face of enemy fire, performing above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the mission's success.