by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
10/20/2012 - CLEMSON, S.C. -- As
the battle on the gridiron between the Clemson Tigers and the Virginia
Tech Hokies paused for halftime, a story of heroism was broadcast over
the Memorial Stadium speakers for some 80,000 people in attendance Oct.
20, 2012, at Clemson, S.C.
Capt. Michael Polidor and Capt. Justin Kulish, now B-2 Bomber pilots at
Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., watched the two teams battle it out before
walking onto the field to be recognized for their heroic acts during a
much different battle on a much different terrain - Afghanistan.
Rewind to October 2009, 70 American and Afghan Soldiers at Combat
Outpost Keating, a remote outpost in northeastern Afghanistan, about
approximately 10 miles from the Pakistan border, laydown fire as more
than 100 Taliban insurgents armed with AK-47's and grenade launchers
ambushed the base.
With barbed wire being the only thing standing between them and the insurgents, the Soldiers quickly requested air support.
Air Force pilots from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, had just taken off
for a routine mission when they were given the orders to stop insurgents
from over running a nearby outpost. One of those pilots was Polidor,
deployed from the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron out of Seymour
Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., he raced over the mountainous terrain in
his F-15E Strike Eagle to reach the battle that was raging below him.
"It looked like the Fourth of July down there," said Polidor. "They were taking fire from all directions, 360 degrees."
Polidor used his jet fighter's sensors to gauge the situation occurring
20,000 feet below him. Because of low-lying clouds, Polidor and his
fellow Wingman flying high in the sky were forced to rely solely on
their jets advanced technological instruments to target insurgents on
As Polidor and his fellow F-15 pilots wreaked havoc on the insurgents by
dropping bombs and firing rounds at them, A-10 Warthogs, B-1 Stealth
Bombers and Army helicopters provided additional assistance.
Kulish was one of the B-1 pilots assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary
Wing providing the vital close air support needed for the Soldiers on
"They were in danger of being completely overrun by insurgents," said Polidor. "It was our job to eliminate them."
What Polidor did not know, was that this battle would last for more than
eight hours. When the dust settled around the remote outpost that lied
in a valley surrounded by three mountains, eight American Soldiers had
made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country. Three Afghan
soldiers had also lost their lives in the fight with several more
American and Afghan Soldiers wounded.
Nearly 100 insurgents were killed and the attempted overrun of the
remote outpost was over. A total of 20 bombs were dropped on the
battlefield that day with several thousand rounds hurled at the
insurgents as well. Of the 20 bombs dropped Oct. 3, 2009, in
Afghanistan, Polidor was responsible for four of them and had fired 170
rounds from his F-15.
Fast forward to today, Oct. 20, 2012, Polidor and Kulish stand on the
50-yard line of the Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C., where more than
80,000 people clap in appreciation after hearing their heroic stories.
"Clemson fans have been amazing to us and it is an honor to be here on this field today," said Polidor.
While Polidor was being honored on the field, he met with Clemson wide
receiver Daniel Rodriguez who had just finished battling it out on the
field against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Though Polidor and Rodriguez had
never met in person until now, their paths had crossed just a few years
earlier. The day Polidor was raining down bombs and bullets on the
insurgents in that Afghanistan valley, Rodriguez, a sergeant in the Army
at the time, was one of the American Soldiers fighting for his life on
"I have never met someone who was on the ground that day," said Polidor.
Polidor and Rodriguez met up after the game and spoke about the battle.
"It was very revealing to get his side of the story and from his
perspective," said Polidor. "They fought hard and we made sure the
insurgents never reached the base."
They hugged one another and then Rodriguez ran off the field to meet back with his team.
Polidor received the Distinguished Flying Cross in 2010 for his heroism on that fateful day in Afghanistan.