b. 14/10/1983 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. d. 25/01/2008 Konar Province, Afghanistan.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 25/01/2008 Konar Province, Afghanistan.
Miller was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 14, 1983. He was one of eight kids — four boys, four girls — and came from a line of military men; both his grandfathers had fought in World War II, and his father has been a translator for the Army in Berlin during the Cold War.
When Miller was 5, his family moved to the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois, where he thrived. Miller was a Boy Scout and grew up playing several sports. Although he was an avid gymnast by the time he was in high school, he also played the trumpet and tuba. As a teen, Miller wanted to go to the U.S. Naval Academy, but those dreams were dashed due to his colorblindness. Instead, he spent a year at the University of Iowa before joining the Army in August 2003 from Oviedo, Florida, where his family had just moved. Miller enlisted as a Special Forces trainee and earned his Special Forces Tab on Sept. 30, 2005. He was immediately assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
During his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2006-2007, Miller’s actions earned him two Army Commendation Medals for Valor. He returned to the country in October 2007 as part of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan. He was a weapons sergeant with Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Task Force 33. According to his colleagues, he spoke French, German, some Russian and Pashto, which made him a good point man during missions; he could talk with the locals with whom they worked.
On Jan. 25, 2008, Miller’s detachment was sent to the Gowardesh Valley, a remote area in northwest Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. Their mission: to clear out insurgents who had been attacking Afghan forces and terrorizing villagers. Surveillance intel had shown a group of armed men holed up at a compound in the valley. Miller’s detachment and about 15 Afghan National Army soldiers were tasked with determining if they were insurgents and, if confirmed, calling in close-air support to bomb the compound. In the frigid pre-dawn morning, Miller volunteered to serve as point man on the patrol, which had to go through “ambush alley,” an area with 300-foot near-vertical cliffs surrounding it. The route wasn’t easy to traverse – snow packed the way, and they had to blow up two insurgent-placed boulders in their path. So, they were prepared for resistance.
Once they got to the compound, they secured a perimeter and sent in a drone to confirm that there were, indeed, 15-20 insurgents inside who had already taken up fighting positions. Miller kicked off the battle using his vehicle’s turret-mounted Mk-19 grenade launcher. He then called in the enemy’s positions, and the Air Force dropped bombs on them. When the air cleared, about two-dozen coalition members moved in on foot to assess the damage. Miller was again their point man. As they crossed a bridge and neared the steep, narrow valley through which the enemy had come, about 150 insurgents pounced, launching rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire from elevated positions and hiding spots on the ground. Miller’s patrol had nowhere to hide.
Since Miller was out front, he yelled to his comrades to pull back while he charged the enemy — some of whom were within 20 feet — to draw their fire, giving the others a chance to find cover. Once they were out of immediate danger, Miller tried to find cover himself but was shot in the upper torso under his body armor. At about the same time, the detachment’s commander, Capt. Robert Cusick, was also wounded. He ordered the rest of the team to fall back. Miller, however, knew he had the most firepower out of all of his comrades, so he stayed in that forward position, crawling through the snow to draw the fire in his direction.
“Rob seemed to disappear into clouds of dust and debris, but his team could hear him on the radio, still calling out the enemy’s position,” President Barack Obama recounted at Miller’s Medal of Honor ceremony. “They could hear his weapon still firing as he provided cover for his men.Miller continued to move from position to position until he was shot and killed. His team heard his gun fall silent over the radio, Obama’s remarks stated. So, two of his teammates rushed forward to find him and be by his side for his last moments. They were soon forced back by more enemy fire, but after several more hours, the detachment was finally able to bring the 24-year-old’s body out of the valley.
Five coalition force members were injured that day, but thanks to Miller’s extraordinary efforts, 15 Afghan soldiers and seven members of his own team made it out alive. According to post-battle intelligence reports, of the more than 40 insurgents killed and roughly 60 who were wounded that day, Miller was credited with killing 16 and injuring more than 30. Miller’s body was returned to the U.S. and buried with full military honors in All Faiths Memorial Park in Casselberry, Florida. At his funeral, one of his friends referred to him as “a loyal friend, a caring brother and son and a great patriot.”
On October 6, 2010, Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Miller’s parents, Philip and Maureen, during a White House ceremony. More than 100 of the soldier’s friends, family and fellow soldiers attended. “He loved what he was doing, and he was very good at it,” Miller’s father said at the time. “He was extremely enthusiastic about it, and it was very clear he really embraced the work, the mission and the people he worked with, American and Afghan. When we learned about the details of what Robby had done to receive the Medal of Honor nomination, we weren’t surprised, and we also weren’t surprised at his reaction (in the field), because that was the sort of person he was — that’s what his training taught him to do and be,” Maureen Miller said. “I think the fact that he died doing something that he loved and thought was worthwhile was an important factor in helping us deal.”
Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism while serving as the Weapons Sergeant in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force-33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan during combat operations against an armed enemy in Konar Province, Afghanistan on January 25, 2008. While conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol through the Gowardesh Valley, Staff Sergeant Miller and his small element of U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers engaged a force of 15 to 20 insurgents occupying prepared fighting positions. Staff Sergeant Miller initiated the assault by engaging the enemy positions with his vehicle’s turret-mounted Mark-19 40 millimeter automatic grenade launcher while simultaneously providing detailed descriptions of the enemy positions to his command, enabling effective, accurate close air support. Following the engagement, Staff Sergeant Miller led a small squad forward to conduct a battle damage assessment. As the group neared the small, steep, narrow valley that the enemy had inhabited, a large, well-coordinated insurgent force initiated a near ambush, assaulting from elevated positions with ample cover. Exposed and with little available cover, the patrol was totally vulnerable to enemy rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapon fire. As point man, Staff Sergeant Miller was at the front of the patrol, cut off from supporting elements, and less than 20 meters from enemy forces. Nonetheless, with total disregard for his own safety, he called for his men to quickly move back to covered positions as he charged the enemy over exposed ground and under overwhelming enemy fire in order to provide protective fire for his team. While maneuvering to engage the enemy, Staff Sergeant Miller was shot in his upper torso. Ignoring the wound, he continued to push the fight, moving to draw fire from over one hundred enemy fighters upon himself. He then again charged forward through an open area in order to allow his teammates to safely reach cover. After killing at least 10 insurgents, wounding dozens more, and repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire while moving from position to position, Staff Sergeant Miller was mortally wounded by enemy fire. His extraordinary valor ultimately saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghanistan National Army soldiers. Staff Sergeant Miller’s heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty, and at the cost of his own life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
BURIAL LOCATION: ALL FAITHS MEMORIAL PARK, CASSELBERRY, FLORIDA.
GARDEN OF HONOUR SECTION 13, LOT D, SPACE 1.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.