Two Marine Raiders have received valorous awards for actions during a firefight with al-Qaida militants in northern Africa, Marine officials have confirmed.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command confirmed to Task and Purpose that on Feb. 28, 2017, during a three-day mission to train, advise and assist partner forces, a Marine Special Operations team engaged al-Qaida enemy fighters.

Two Raiders were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a valorous device following that incident.

Partner forces initially engaged and killed one al-Qaida fighter with small arms fire before calling for helicopter support. Militants then attempted to flank the Marines and partner forces from the rear, leading the Marines to return fire in self-defense, Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho said in a statement to Task and Purpose.

According to award citations, one Raider “provided critical communications relay and ensured proper positioning of partner force elements.” The second Raider engaged militants from a helicopter platform as well as coordinated close-air support along with the directing gunners and pilots for support. This Raider also accompanied the helicopter during a casualty evacuation of two separate wounded Raiders and coordinated two resupply operations throughout the course of the day.

The Marine Corps had previously trained with Army Special Operations in Germany in preparation for operations in Africa.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that there are roughly 6,000 U.S. troops across 53 countries in Africa, according to earlier Military Times reporting.

The names of the Raiders and the African country have not been released due to the classified nature of the operations.

Neil is a former US Army Captain and served operational deployments in South Korea and Afghanistan. He is currently an Editorial Fellow at the Military Times.

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