All Scouts are brave. Some are called to risk their life to save others.
Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Britt K. Slabinski, an Eagle Scout, belongs in that latter group.
On May 24, 2018, he will receive the Medal of Honor for his 2002 attempt to rescue a teammate during a 14-hour battle in the mountains of Afghanistan.
The Medal of Honor is the military’s highest honor, and Slabinski is just the 12th living service member to receive it for actions in Afghanistan.
Slabinski earned Scouting’s highest honor on March 9, 1984. He was a member of Troop 109 of Northampton, Mass., part of the Western Massachusetts Council.
After graduating from high school, Slabinski enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He attended boot camp in Orlando, Fla., and fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a Navy SEAL in 1990.
Exposed to enemy fire
Twelve years later, on March 4, 2002, Slabinski was in the snow-covered mountains of Afghanistan in the middle of a dangerous fight against al-Qaida.
Slabinski and his team were ordered to establish an observation post atop Takur Ghar, a 10,000-foot mountain in southeastern Afghanistan. This position would give the U.S. a tactical advantage against al-Qaida forces.
After a series of delays, Slabinski and his team flew to the peak around 3 a.m. They realized, too late, that al-Qaida forces were already there. Slabinski’s helicopter was hit with heavy fire, and Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts fell out about 10 feet from the ground.
They could not retrieve Roberts before the helicopter crash landed.
Two hours later, Slabinski and his team boarded a new helicopter to what was later named Roberts Ridge. They would attempt to rescue Roberts — not yet realizing Roberts already had been killed.
With bullets piercing his clothing, Slabinski charged into al-Qaida territory. He put his own life on the line to protect his heavily outnumbered team.
Over the next 14 hours, Slabinski carried a teammate down a sheer cliff face and through waist-deep snow. He did this while calling in strikes on enemies attacking his team from the surrounding ridges.
“He stabilized the casualties and continued the fight against the enemy until the mountaintop could be secured and his team was extracted,” according to the official commendation. “His dedication, disregard for his own personal safety and tactical leadership make Master Chief Slabinski unquestionably deserving of this honor.”
‘Virtuous’ and ‘physically fit’
Deryk Langlais was a Scout with Slabinski. He recalls Slabinski earning his BSA Mile Swim Award at age 13 at Chesterfield Scout Reservation.
Langlais told the Greenfield (Mass.) Recorder that Slabinski was “virtuous” and “always physically fit.”
“He was focused from a young age on becoming a Navy SEAL — and keep in mind that back in the 1970s and ’80s very few people knew what a SEAL was,” Langlais told the Recorder. “He also had a quiet, dry sense of humor that made him seem older than his peers.”
Slabinski has one son, Bryce, who also is an Eagle Scout.