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October 2005

Last Night I Met A Hero

Below is a letter from Major Mark Rasnake, USAF doctor (ICU director and infectious disease expert) in Balad, Iraq, who met a Bradley Fighting Vehicle Commander who courageously fought to save his men...no matter the price.

While the letter is posted on the USAF site linked below, I've been told that it was originally a letter to his father back home.

Last night I met a hero
Commentary by Maj. Mark Rasnake
332nd Expeditionary Medical Group

10/21/2005 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- I met a hero last night. I did not realize it at the time, but he is the closest thing to a hero that I likely will ever meet. This is a place where the word "hero" is tossed around day in and day out, so much so that you sometimes lose sight of its true meaning. His story reminded me of it.

He was commanding a Bradley fighting vehicle that was struck with a roadside bomb, catching fire. The loading ramp jammed, trapping eight inside. The crew was forced to escape through a much smaller hatch in the top of the vehicle. All but one made it out. The medic was left behind, apparently unable to get out. Without concern for his own life, my hero went back in to the burning vehicle to retrieve his friend.

Six of his buddies came to us with severe burns. He came to us with burns over most of his body, the most severely injured of the group.

The surgeons worked for hours on his wounds and we worked for hours in the intensive care unit to stabilize him for transport. In the end, damage to his lungs made him too sick to be safely transported by plane to our hospital in Germany and then on to a burn center in San Antonio.

The ventilators we use for transport simply could not deliver the amount of oxygen he needed. If he stayed here in Iraq he would have died of his wounds. We simply cannot care for such severe burns here. Only a handful of hospitals back in the U.S. can.

Knowing this, our air evac team loaded him into the plane for the six-hour flight to Germany. They had to deliver every breath to him during that flight by squeezing a small bag by hand. I do not know yet if he made it to Germany alive, or if he will be able to fly on to San Antonio. 

Continue reading "Last Night I Met A Hero" »

Not A Number - Godspeed Staff Sergeant George T. Alexander

On Saturday, SSG George T. Alexander, of Killeen, Texas, died at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.  On October 17th, Alexander's vehicle was hit by an IED.  SSG Alexander was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.  The 1st/15th is a top unit in the Army - Audie Murphy is just one of it's more well-known WWII combat soldiers.  Another from the Gulf War is Special Forces MilBlogger Jack Army.

I've done a lot of digging to try to find more about SSG Alexander.  I believe that this was his second tour in Iraq and, during his first tour, he was deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, with the 4th ID.

There are two groups that will celebrate and use George Alexander's sacrifice.

I found this picture in an old Soldiers magazine from 2003 (US Army photo by SPC Goff).  It's a picture of Staff Sergeant Alexander's young son showing support for him.


Remember George Alexander.  Because his death was no more terrible, and no more horrible, than any other soldier who gave their life.  Remember Staff Sergeant Alexander for those he left behind. 

Others will seek to marginalize his sacrifice into a number, a sideline marker. 

Don't let them.

Update:  This post has offended some on the left.  My response is here.

The Shift - Embed Bloggers In Iraq

My good pal and partner-in-taking-on-the-bias Bill Roggio of the Fourth Rail will be heading to Iraq soon to embed blog with the Marines of Regimental Combat Team - 2.

Here are the details and please support his trip if you can.  As usual, when I recommend supporting a cause or someone doing great things (like Michael Yon), I donated to support Bill's trip this morning.  He's covering the costs himself (just think what transportation, body armor and equipment will cost).


Fire Power Forward from Afghanistan to Pakistan

For those who haven't read it yet, Major Brian Delaplane of Fire Power Forward has moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan to help with the earthquake relief efforts.  Here's a part of his latest report:

...We turned to the north, and Islamabad spread out before us.  The stark differences between what I was seeing here and Afghanistan could not have been more vivid.  Gone were the mud huts, and compounds swept with dusty winds.  Gone were the networks of trails dissecting the country side, replaced with divided highways and paved city streets It was my first real view of the thousands upon thousands of small white houses and buildings spread across this wide valley floor like so many alabaster tiles or ivory dominos...

Be sure to read the whole post.

Three Wishes to Help 3/25th Marines

Amy sends this news (and links) about a new reality show that will support the 3/25th Marines:

Craig Morgan will be helping out some Marines returning from Iraq on the Oct. 26 episode of the NBC series Three Wishes, hosted by singer Amy Grant. Craig will be on hand as the show gives away homes and more to Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment stationed in Brook Park, Ohio, a division that suffered staggering losses in the Iraq war. "It was such an honor to participate in a reality show that focuses on helping people and communities," says Craig. "This is the type of programming that I am proud to be associated with." Craig joins the Three Wishes team at an emotional homecoming in Ohio, and performs his upcoming single "I Got You" as part of a "thank you" concert for the families. Three Wishes airs Friday Oct 28th, 9:00 pm (ET). (NOT WEDNESDAY)



Silver Stars - Past and Present

Master Sgt. Robert Collins (center right) shakes hands with Col. Kenneth Tovo, commander of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), after receiving the Silver Star Oct. 14 at Fort Carson, Colo.  Collins and Sgt. 1st Class Danny Hall (right), both of 2nd Battalion, 10th SFG, were awarded Silver Stars for their heroic actions in Iraq earlier this year. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ryan C. Creel, 10th SFG)

Below is a story of the awarding of three Silver Stars - two in Iraq and one to fix an administrative error forty years ago.

Green Berets get Silver Stars for actions in Iraq, Vietnam
By Staff Sgt. Kyle Cosner

FORT CARSON, Colo. (Army News Service, Oct. 20, 2005) — A trio of Green Berets — two active and one retired — each received the Silver Star during a ceremony here Oct. 14.

Master Sgt. Robert Collins, Sgt. 1st Class Danny Hall and retired 1st Sgt. Cornelius Clark were recognized with the military’s third highest valor award for their gallantry under enemy fire: Collins and Hall for their actions in Iraq this year, and Clark for his heroism in Vietnam in 1965.

Col. Kenneth Tovo, commander of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) here, said during the ceremony that while any Silver Star presentation is significant, this ceremony was extraordinary.

“Awarded for heroism, the presentation of the Silver Star is always a special event. But today is particularly noteworthy … (because) our ceremony brings together Special Forces heroes past and present.”

Two medals, but one team

Collins and Hall, both of 2nd Battalion, 10th SFG, were deployed to Iraq earlier this year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During offensive operations in the country’s Jazeera region in April, both men’s aggressive actions in battle led to the defeat of attacking enemy forces and the survival of their Special Forces detachment, according to their Silver Star citations.

While searching for an anti-Iraqi forces training camp and weapons cache, Collins and Hall’s joint coalition element was engaged by a platoon-sized enemy force with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and grenades. After Collins personally directed close air support from F-16 aircraft armed with 500-pound bombs, Hall led a dismounted charge into small arms fire and RPG volleys.

Collins then led his element to engage the enemy, personally eliminating at least three enemy fighters. In addition to his combat role, Hall — a Special Forces medical sergeant — managed to set up a casualty collection point and a helicopter landing zone to medevac out his wounded troops.

Perhaps Collins and Hall most conspicuously risked their lives when while pinned down by enemy fire, both men ran into a hail of bullets to recover a critically wounded U.S. Soldier. They carried the Soldier to safety, began medical care and saved his life.

Collins acknowledged the personal significance of his Silver Star, but said he feels that the award symbolizes the heroism of his team during its battle with anti-Iraqi forces.

“It’s important, but it’s representative of the efforts of the team, not just my individual effort,” Collins said. He also stressed that in addition to the pride he has in his SF teammates, he was just as proud of the other U.S. and Iraqi forces that fought with them that day in Iraq.

“They fought well and fought hard,” he added.

Tovo said that Collins and Hall’s uncommon valor on the battlefield came as no surprise to him after he learned the details of the battle.

“They epitomize the ideal of bravery that we expect of today’s SF Soldier,” Tovo said.

Continue reading "Silver Stars - Past and Present" »

On Recruiting Shortfalls

Greyhawk writes about the recruiting shortfalls of the Army and is, as usual, on the money.  I agree with Greyhawk that the decline is more likely caused by preventing those just signing up solely for college money from enlisting.

One thing I'd add, the Army's total force was raised by 30,000 troops (the call for the raise was led by Hilary Clinton).  So, in context of the elevated troop levels, I'd say recruiting met expectations but did not exceed them.  Which is pretty damn good during a war...