CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — Two Marines killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan were set to be posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the military's second highest honor.
Capt. Matthew Manoukian and Staff Sgt. Sky Mote were to be honored Saturday afternoon in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The men were killed in 2012 after an Afghan police officer armed with an AK-47 burst into their military outpost in Helmand province and opened fire, killing a Marine.
Manoukian and Mote confronted the intruder and shot back, allowing other Marines to escape, the Marine Corps said.
Manoukian, a 29-year-old team commander, was working in the operations center when he heard shots tearing through the walls. He grabbed his pistol and fired at the policeman while directing others to safety.
Mote, a 27-year-old explosive ordnance disposal technician, was working nearby and ran to the operations center.
"In his final act of bravery, he boldly remained in the open and engaged the shooter, no less than five meters in front of him," the Marine Corps said in a statement.
The men were from Northern California and were part of the 1st Marines Special Operations Battalion. They were the 15th and 16th Marines to receive the Navy Cross, the Navy's highest honor and the military's second highest honor.
In an interview with U-T San Diego before he died, Manoukian, who was on his fourth deployment, raved about his job.
"To be honest with you, I love my job. This is what I enjoy doing and I can't get enough of it ... working with a complex problem set with some of the most dedicated, well-trained, heavy-hitting individuals around. Everyone out here is just amazing," he told the newspaper.
Statistics compiled by The Associated Press showed that while violence in Afghanistan fell in 2012, insider killings by uniformed Afghans against their foreign allies rose dramatically.