The 173rd Airborne has been in some of the toughest fighting in Afghanistan. It's been written about in the media because that is where a ton of the action has been over the last year (the best article, by far, was in Vanity Fair - "Into the Valley of Death").
Medic Recognized for Actions During Insurgent Assault
By Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Aird
173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team
Col. Charles Preysler, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team commander, pins a Bronze Star for valor on Army Sgt. Kyle S. Dirkintis, a medic attached for Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, April 1, on Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangarhar province. Dirkintis was recognized for his actions during fire-fight at Ranch House Outpost, Kunar province. (U.S. Army photo/Maj. Nicholas Sternberg)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Army Sgt. Kyle S. Dirkintis, a medic from Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Rock”, was awarded a Bronze Star for valor, April 1, for his actions at Ranch House Outpost, Kunar province.
August 22, 2007, Dirkintis, a Racine, Wis., native, woke to the sound of gun fire, something he hadn’t heard during the first three months of his deployment at Ranch House, a remote outpost defended by 25 Soldiers.
Minutes after the first shot, roughly 20 insurgents breached the outpost’s perimeter.
“We were pretty surprised,” said Dirkintis. “We didn’t know what was going on. It was the first time we had been in contact out there.”
Dirkintis and the rest of 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, put on their gear while Soldiers manning the perimeter exchanged gun fire with the approaching insurgents.
As Dirkintis headed toward the fight, a volley of rocket propelled grenades and small-arms fire hit the aid station and tactical operations center. The insurgents had taken up positions at the Afghan security guards’ post.
The fleeing ASG left half the perimeter unguarded, which allowed the insurgents to breach the wire.
ASG are a privately owned Afghan security company.
“Post 4, post 3 and post 2 had all called in and said they had made contact,” said Dirkintis. “At that point in time, we sustained our first casualty in the fight. Our forward observer received some shrapnel to his face.”
Dirkintis treated the Soldier’s shrapnel wounds while insurgent fighter’s approached 40 meters south of his position.
“I exchanged weapons with him (for the Soldier’s M-4) and ran down to the TOC to let the guys know what was going on with the casualty. Rounds were skipping by me. I was seeing rocks explode every where. You could hear RPG after RPG exploding. I kept thinking is this really happening?”
After moving to the TOC to inform 1st Lt. Matthew Ferrara about the injured Soldier the building was hit by a RPG.
“I remember the lights came down from the ceiling and it got really dusty in there,” said Dirkintis “I can’t remember if the radios had gone down or not, but the antennas had gotten blown off the roof and turned into a bunch of twisted metal.”
After the RPG hit the TOC, Army Staff Sgt. Eric Phillips ran inside and informed Ferrara and Dirkintis that post 3 was under heavy attack and a Soldier had been shot at post 2.
“I grabbed my aid bag and went outside with Phillips,” said Dirkintis.
Tactically moving toward post 2, Dirkintis and Phillips took cover behind post 2’s living quarters where they were pinned down for 15 minutes by machine-gun and small-arms fire. Unable to advance, both Soldiers stayed put and returned fire. The fighting between the forces was escalating and Phillips told Dirkintis to get inside the building.
“Rounds started coming through the building so I went back outside and got behind some sandbags,” said Dirkintis.
Once outside, Soldiers manning post 2 yelled down that insurgents were maneuvering around the living quarters. Phillips threw hand grenades around one corner while Dirkintis wheeled around to fire down another corner.
“As soon as I kneeled and looked around the corner I took a shot to the chest,” said Dirkintis. “At first I didn’t know I had been shot. My vision had gotten real blurry. It was difficult to breath. My entire body felt really, really numb.”
The force of bullet knocked Dirkintis to the ground and punctured a lung.
“I tried to crawl to all fours and to get up, but that’s when I started coughing up blood,” said Dirkintis. “I just couldn’t get up. It hurt really bad.”
Dirkintis continued to try to get up and get back in the fight. Unable to stand, he was dragged by Phillips 30 meters to the mortar pit. While the battle raged on, Dirkintis helped Soldiers find medical supplies in his aid bag and struggled to keep conscious.
For the next hour and a half, Soldiers used hand grenades, claymore mines, small arms and heavy weapons to repel the attacking Taliban. A-10 Warthog jets strafed a section of the base occupied by insurgent fighters. By the end of the fighting, 11 of 25 Soldiers defending Ranch House Outpost had suffered injuries. Five of those Soldiers later died from their wounds.
Dirkintis was medevaced to Germany where he recovered and, against doctors advice, volunteered to come back to Afghanistan.
Dirkintis now works in the pharmacy on Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangarhar province.
First Lieutenant Matthew Ferrara was later killed fighting out of an ambush last November. He died along with five others - Sgt. Jeffery S. Mersman, Spc. Sean K.A. Langevin, Spc. Lester G. Roque, Pfc. Joseph M. Lancour, and Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks. Eight paratroopers and eleven Afghan soldiers were wounded. This is the video of their medevac:
In the coming weeks and months, we'll be working with some of the Gold Star families and TankerBabeLC to work on ensuring the 173rd Airborne and their families get a Welcome Home Party the likes of which no one has ever seen...
You can send non-tax-deductible contributions to:
173rd Sky Angels Fund
C/O Terry and Cheryl Blaskowski
P.O. Box 164
Cheboygan, MI 49721