The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Pfc. Theodore M. Glende, 23, of Rochester, N.Y., died July 27, in Kharwar, Logar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire. Glende was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy.
Posts Tagged ‘173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team’
Sgt. 1st Class Jack White, an Airborne School instructor, received the Army’s second-highest military decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross, Sept. 7.
In a ceremony on the hallowed ground of the 173rd Airborne Memorial at the National Infantry Museum, White was surrounded by his family, Soldiers he served with in the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the Fort Benning community.
The award was for his actions June 29, 2008, in Khost Province, Afghanistan, while serving as a squad leader with the Vicenza, Italy-based A Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment.
That night, White and 18 other Soldiers on a tiny observation post near the Pakistan border turned back an enemy force of 105 Taliban fighters who attacked from a ridge with small-arms fire, RPK machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
“He brought them all back unscathed,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Weik, who was the battalion’s command sergeant major and now fills that role at the 198th Infantry Brigade. “Very easily this could’ve turned bad. If it wasn’t for his leadership, it would’ve.”
In the past decade, more than 1.5 million troops have deployed in the war on terrorism. The 173rd Airborne Brigade accounted for four Distinguished Service Cross awards during OEF VIII.
“Heroic actions can serve as lessons learned,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commanding general. “We talk an awful lot about inspired leadership here. The Soldier we honor today is the epitome of inspired leadership.”
Col. Michael Fenzel, then a lieutenant colonel, led White’s battalion in Afghanistan. He’s now commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“Heroes are made long before the events that thrust them into a position to have to act,” Fenzel told the audience. “Jack White became a hero to those that served with him long before the evening of June 29 on Observation Point East.”
The observation point was a 90-minute climb from Combat Outpost Spera, which sat 1,000 feet below. It’s just 25 meters from Pakistan.
On the morning of June 29, the Taliban fighters began a 10-hour crawl up the side of the mountain toward White’s position at the top. As the attack commenced, White was awoken by an RPG that landed less than 20 meters away. He immediately low-crawled out of the sleeping area to lead the observation point’s defense.
White spoke of the unity and strength of the small tactical unit and squad, and of the human dimension of combat.
“You don’t really think, you just think about what you have to do at the time,” said White, 30, who was a staff sergeant when the incident occurred. “It ain’t like the movies; it ain’t fun. It’s the last place you want to be, honestly. But your training takes over, and you start thinking about the guy to the left and right of you, and make sure everybody gets out of there safe.
“If it weren’t for my guys that were up there … I wouldn’t be speaking to you today.”
Maneuvering through heavy enemy fire, White engaged and quickly adjusted his men to repel the attacking force, according to his citation. With no regard for his own safety, he ordered multiple “danger-close” fire missions, called in airstrikes, and directed lethal mortar and artillery launches.
“There was no way to get to them quickly, (and) over 100 Taliban assaulted them with the intent of overrunning them,” Command Sgt. Maj. Weik said. “But when I heard his voice on the radio, I knew everything was going to be OK … and he brought all those boys off that mountain.”
The fight lasted more than an hour, but the enemy finally broke contact and retreated.
“These Taliban and foreign fighters came in waves and the attacks on the main combat outpost below them emanated from six other directions,” Col. Fenzel said. “The other attacks were designed to isolate OP East so it could be destroyed, but the enemy hadn’t taken into account the expertise, the cool and violent response under the direction of one man … Jack’s own personal actions, bravery and leadership are the reason why 18 other American Soldiers are alive today.”
White has been on four deployments — three to Afghanistan and one to Iraq. The Distinguished Service Cross wouldn’t be possible without the actions of his comrades, he said.
“All my guys who were up on the OP with me, I wish they were here today,” he said. “It’s mainly for them. That’s how I see this award, not for me, but for everybody.”
His unit also earned seven Army Commendation Medals and a Bronze Star, all with “V” devices for valor.
The Distinguished Service Cross has been awarded to more than 13,000 U.S. servicemembers since its inception in January 1918. Since the global war on terror began, it’s gone to 15 Soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom and six from Operation Enduring Freedom.
By Vince Little
For all our stories on this American hero, follow this link.
Yesterday, President Obama spoke with Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta to inform him that he will be awarded the Medal of Honor for acts of gallantry at the risk of his life that went above and beyond the call of duty. Sergeant Giunta will be the first living service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for service in Iraq or Afghanistan. The President thanked Sergeant Giunta for his service and extraordinary bravery in battle.
Further information about the date and time of the ceremony will be released at a later date.
ACTION FROM WHICH THE MEDAL OF HONOR WAS EARNED:
Then-Specialist Salvatore A. Giunta distinguished himself by acts of gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifle team leader with Company B, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry Regiment during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan on October 25, 2007.
When an insurgent force ambush split Specialist Giunta’s squad into two groups, he exposed himself to enemy fire to pull a comrade back to cover. Later, while engaging the enemy and attempting to link up with the rest of his squad, Specialist Giunta noticed two insurgents carrying away a fellow soldier. He immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other, and provided medical aid to his wounded comrade while the rest of his squad caught up and provided security. His courage and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon’s ability defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American paratrooper from enemy hands.
Giunta, 24, a Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School graduate who served two tours in Afghanistan, was nominated for the award for his role in preventing a wounded fellow soldier from being dragged away during a fire fight in the Korengal River Valley in northeast Afghanistan.
Giunta’s father, Steve Giunta of Hiawatha, said he and his wife, Rose, are proud of their son but said Sal is “very reserved and quiet” when it comes to the award.
“He would like to not have the spotlight,” Steve Giunta said. “If all of this would just go away I think that would be just fine by him.”
“As he told me, this doesn’t change the event,” the elder Giunta said. “As he puts it, every soldier would have done it.”
His father, Steve Giunta of Hiawatha, said Staff Sgt. Giunta is stationed in Italy.
“We’re very proud of him – proud of all of his unit, not all of whom are still here,” Steve Giunta said.
Giunta, who enlisted in the Army shortly after graduating from Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, is now stationed in Italy with the Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He was in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan at the time of the ambush.
Giunta, who was previously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other medals, called his parents after hearing from the president, his father said.
U.S. Army Capt. Erik Johnson, an occupational therapist with the 173rd ABCT and Little Rock, Ark., native, helped spearhead the clinic to treat Soldiers who suffer from traumatic brain injuries from combat. The goal is to have the Soldiers recover and return to their unit without the delays that previously kept Soldiers out of theater for evaluations or treatment, he said.
The new clinic is the first of its kind here in Afghanistan, said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Melissa Potter, the medical operations noncommissioned officer in charge of the 173rd ABCT, from Virginia Beach, Va.
The program allows Soldiers to stay at the clinic and receive treatment with Johnson and his assistant, U.S. Army Spc. Jessica Rivera-Mendoza, from New Castle, Del., for up to 14 days. It lets Soldiers get back in the fight and rejoin their units sooner than ever before.
“In the past, they would be medically evacuated out of theater,” Johnson said. “This is the first clinic of its kind. Our treatment program is definitely helping the 173rd identify symptoms as early as possible. It’s great to see these Soldiers make comebacks like this.”
The pilot program has caught the attention of military leaders at the Pentagon, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, due to its tremendous contributions in reducing the time it takes to get Soldiers treated and returned to duty, said Johnson.
“Once a combat medic determines that there are signs of any head trauma, the Soldier is referred to the mTBI Clinic for treatment here,” said U.S. Army Spc. Ashley Marie Bordges, a medic with Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd ABCT.
Headaches, irritability, short-term memory loss and troubles with problem-solving skills are some of the most common symptoms that medics encounter following a minor traumatic brain injury, Johnson said.
U.S. Army Sgt. James Doyle Triplett, from Lawton, Okla., came to the clinic with concentration problems after his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. He said that he had some difficulties thinking clearly, but Johnson and Bordges helped him improve dramatically.
To help patients, Johnson ensures that the clinic environment is a comfortable, quiet space that will make Soldiers feel at home and help them relax and rest. Letting the brain calm down after an IED or rocket propelled grenade attack is an essential part of the therapy.
U.S. Army Maj. Jay Baker, the 173rd ABCT Surgeon, from Escondido, Ca., said, “The program is ideal because exposing Soldiers to occupational therapy and new techniques like winding down time, resting in a dark quiet place for 24-48 hours and receiving medical or psychological help have proved to be highly effective.”
“In the past, Soldiers suffering from mTBI were sent back to home station due to the lack of a solid treatment plan, and the units were also losing Soldiers due to poor follow-ups (post-deployment),” Baker said.
But with a facility dedicated to mTBI treatment and a tracking system, no Soldiers here slip through the cracks, Potter said. This also identifies high-risk Soldiers and ensures that they receive follow up screenings after they return from deployment.
Treatment and recovery is also effective here because the patients will receive mTBI care with the support of their units nearby, without worry or guilt for having to leave to get treatment back in the U.S. or out of theater.
A close relationship between the doctor and patients also makes mTBI treatment at FOB Shank unique and successful.
“Captain Johnson is completely dedicated to his job and the Soldiers,” said Potter. “Because he is dedicated to the mTBI clinic, he is able to personalize his treatment plans and really get to know the Soldiers. He makes his patients feel at home and a part of the team. Soldiers are comfortable talking to him and coming to the clinic to receive care.”.
“Soldiers tell me all the time that when they were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in the past, they never had this program before, Johnson said.“It is a very important program for our patients. So far, about 150 Soldiers have come to the clinic for treatment and 100 percent have been returned to duty, Johnson said.
“We are doing some innovative things here and making some breakthroughs that lead the way in terms of treating these kind of traumatic brain injuries,” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Rolling, command sergeant major of the 173rd ABCT, from Camarillo, Ca. “What they have done with this clinic is awesome.”
Story by Staff Sgt. Bruce Cobbledick
Table of contents for TBI
- Frontline of Assessing Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
- Privately funded TBI treatment center opens at Bethesda
- Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic
- Operational Stress Control and Readiness Program
- Care for Concussions in Afghanistan
- By the Numbers – Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Military
- Sharana medics open new MTBI recovery center
Silver Star, Purple Heart posthumously
The Army’s third-highest award for valor, the Silver Star, was posthumously awarded to the family of Cpl. Jonathan Ayers at Shiloh High School, March 29, due to his valor during a fire fight in Wanat, Afghanistan July 13, 2008.
The ceremony, attended by approximately 300 members of the Snellville community, also attracted a rather rough-looking bunch””members of an organization that has taken part in Soldiers’ funerals and memorial services for the past four years.
Entering the auditorium, a ring of 90 motorcyclists clad in riding gear, each holding an American flag, form an impressive sight. Amidst leather fringe, sewn onto patches, is the group’s name, a proclamation of pride: Patriot Guard Riders.
“Standing for those who stood for us,” is the group’s motto””one the Patriot Guard takes seriously. They have stood in between the families of fallen Soldiers and protesters since 2005, and continue to show respect at memorial services with their trademark flag lines throughout the country. The ceremony was a fitting event for the motorcycle aficionados; Ayers was an avid rider himself.
Ayers loved motorcycles so much that he was late deploying to Afghanistan with his unit following an accident on his bike. A tough tumble, though, could not deter him from riding – an attitude he also brought to his military career, and what would eventually earn him a Silver Star.
The 24-year-old machine gunner from Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, was killed in action, July 13, 2008, when the observation post he was manning was attacked by Taliban fighters. Ayers died just one week before his unit was scheduled to return home.
Described as a “quiet professional” by members of his unit, Ayers acted with gallantry in action during the single deadliest attack since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, where nine U.S. Soldiers were killed and 15 others were wounded.
During the four-hour battle, an estimated 200 Taliban fighters attacked the small outpost near the Pakistan border, outnumbering U.S. troops nearly 2-to-1.
Ayers, taking heavy enemy fire from his foxhole-like embankment, continued to shoot his weapon even after being hit in the helmet with a bullet. Ayers’ company commander, Capt. Matt Meyer, explained that had it not been for Ayers’ bravery, he believed many more of his men may have lost their lives.
“A lot of people in his position would have ducked down and gotten out of the way,” Meyer said. “But he didn’t, he kept on firing.”
Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel, commander of the South Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, spoke about gallantry and what it means.
“What separates gallantry from any other valor on the battlefield is spirit,” Schroedel said. “It takes a lot of family support to give you the spirit that can sustain someone through what Jon went through.”
Col. James DeCamp, chaplain, First Army, offered his own definition of valor.
“Valor; it’s what happens when a Soldier puts the mission and other Soldiers before himself.”
Gallantry. Valor. No matter the verbiage, Ayers’ actions on July 13, are deserving of praise. However, Ayers’ mother, Suzanne, claims that if her son had been present at the ceremony, he would have been embarrassed by all the attention.
“He wouldn’t have wanted all this because he didn’t want anyone to think he was a hero,” Suzanne said. “If he was here today, he would say he was just doing his job.”
In the high school that he graduated from in 2002, words were spoken about Ayers by his comrades, his commander, a general, a mayor, a State Representative, a high school teacher, and his family””yet all accounts point to his attitude of humbleness.
Although saddened by the loss of their son, the Ayers’ are resolutely proud of his service.
“I asked him if he thought he was making a difference,” Bill Ayers said of his son, “and he told me “˜yes, I think I am.’”
The Ayers’ explained that they are not surprised by their son’s actions, and that he learned to stand his ground from a young age.
“It helps hearing what he did that day,” said Bill Ayers. “It’s a tremendous honor”¦we miss our son greatly, but knowing that he was willing to protect his country and unit”¦it helps.”
The Silver Star was accepted by Ayers’ brother, Josh Ayers, in front of an audience of family members, friends and about 20 members of Ayers’ unit, stationed in Vicenza, Italy.
On March 30, Meyer and Spc. Michael T. Denton (members of Ayers’ unit) were also awarded Silver Stars for their actions during the battle at Wanat, while Sgt. 1st Class David L. Dzwik received a Bronze Star with a Valor device. Throughout Chosen Company’s 15-month deployment in Afghanistan, 16 Soldiers were killed in action and 50 were wounded.
As the Soldiers from Chosen Company exited the auditorium, the words of Col. William B. Ostlund, deputy commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment resounded: “Today we truly are in the company of heroes.” And in the distance, the sound of 90 motorcycles could be heard.
Story by Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown
More on Cpl. Jonathan Ayers and the battle at Wanat