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September 2011

Cav Scouts Clear...

U.S. Army soldiers fire at an enemy hiding position during Operation Tofan 2 in Suri Khel, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2011. The objective was to clear insurgents from the town of Suri Khel and prevent them from returning. The soldiers are assigned to 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Watson

SFC Alwyn C. Cashe

Since being part of the 2010 Medal of Honor Convention, I have read and published scores of narratives for valor medals. While the actions of these men are all truly incredible, the actions of Sergeant First Class Alwyn C. Cashe in Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005 are astonishing. Especially considering he was only awarded the Silver Star.

Cashe occupied the gunner's turret of a Bradley fighting vehicle when it was hit by an IED. Cashe managed to escape the vehicle, but the vehicle's fuel cell had ruptured and ignited, setting fire to the men stuck inside. Cashe was covered in fuel, and insurgent small-arms fire was targeting the Bradley. Cashe rescued the driver, who was on fire, and opened the hatch to rescue the burning soldiers still inside. His uniform caught fire, but he continued his rescue efforts - even running into the inferno to pull out the medic.

Of those wounded in the attack, Cashe's burns were the most severe. He succumbed to his wounds on Nov. 8, 2005. I run into burning buildings for a living as a fireman. But I cannot imagine running into a burning vehicle while soaked in fuel and on fire myself to rescue multiple victims. This man did, he died doing so, and was only awarded the military's third-highest medal for valor. Lyndon Johnson got a Silver Star for just riding on an airplane.

From the narrative to accompany the award:

Sergeant First Class Alwyn C. Cashe, United States Army, distinguished himself by exceptional gallantry in action in the face of violence while serving as the platoon 1h sergeant of 151 Platoon, Alpha Company (Hard rock). 151 Battalion, 15 Infantry Regiment, based at FOB Mackenzie, Salah a Din Province, Iraq.

On 17 October 2005 , SFC Alwyn Cashe's heroic actions saved the lives of six of his fellow Soldiers. At approximately 1915 hrs, his platoon departed the forward operating base along Route Jaime to conduct a route clearance operation along a supply route that ran through the town of Duliaya; a town adjacent to the FOB.

After traveling about 4-5 kilometers, the lead Bradley fighting vehicle, of which SFC Cashe was in the gunner's hatch, struck a vehicle detonated IED emplaced across the route at grid MC 25377243. The blast ignited the fuel cell causing fuel to spew throughout the vehicle igniting a fire and causing the vehicle to roll to a stop. Also, from the forward left flank of the blast site, the platoon received enemy small-arms fire.

Soaked with fuel himself, SFC Cashe managed to dismount from the vehicle and assist the driver, SPC Howe, whose uniform was on fire. SFC Cashe extinguished the flames on SPC Howe.

Six soldiers and an interpreter were in the troop compartment of the burning vehicle. Flames had engulfed the vehicle and were darting from the weapons ports. One of the soldiers in the back of the vehicle attempted to open the hatch door in an attempt to help the soldiers escape. The flames intensified and everyone inside was aflame. Without regard for his personal safety, SFC Cashe rushed to the back of the vehicle, managed to help open the door and began to pull the soldiers out, one at a time. In doing this, the flames totally gripped his fueled soaked uniform causing severe, painful burns. Despite this pain, he bravely continued to pull his troops out of the vehicle and feverishly worked to put their flames out. As the chaos continued, SFC Cashe noticed that the platoon medic was still inside. He rushed back to the vehicle, reached through the flames and pulled out the medic. All this despite being on fire himself.

Within moments, a trail vehicle arrived and assisted with the CASEVAC. Although severely burned, SFC Cashe bravely continued to take control of the situation as besthe could. Shortly thereafter, the company first sergeant, 1SG Chris Mackenzie, accompanied by medics and other soldiers from the company arrived and began to evacuate the severely burned soldiers, the worst of which was SFC Cashe. The FOB helipad served as the LZ/PZ for the air evacuation. Badly burned, all six soldiers were alive when they were air evacuated. The interpreter did not survive the blast and was immediately transported to the battalion morgue.

Throughout the nightmarish ordeal, ten soldiers were injured. Six of the ten were treated at the Balad Hospital. Five of those six, including SFC Cashe were later evacuated through Landstuhl to the burn center in San Antonio, Texas. Sadly, over the next few weeks, four of the six died of wounds.

Despite being the most severely injured with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 72% of his body, SFC Alwyn Cashe endured while his soldiers were alive. He suffered through painful surgeries, infections, organ failure and loss of body parts as he continued to be the consummate Platoon Sergeant to his Soldiers. SFC Alwyn Cashe died of his wounds on 8 November 2005. He was the last of those so severely injured that terrible night to die.

SFC Cashe's selfless and gallant actions allowed the loved ones of these brave soldiers to spend precious time by their sides before each succumbed to their dreadful injuries.

Although he is no longer with us, SFC Alwyn C. Cashe is the type of hero that historians will write about.

His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect greatly upon himself and the US Army.

More Blackfive reading on SFC Cashe here, here, and here.

Not to take away from the honor and tradition of our military decorations, but sometimes cloth and metal don't quite seem sufficient to recognize people like Sergeant First Class Alwyn C. Cashe. I expect that his medal will be upgraded. If not, it is time to overhaul the awards process.

Welcome Home...

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Karl Haywood reunites with his daughter after returning from an eight-month deployment in Iraq on Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, Sept. 18, 2011. Haywood is assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Russell

New Dawn...

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay transits the Arabian Gulf. Mobile Bay is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and support missions as part of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.  Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Wayman.



Sailors prepare an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Golden Dragons of Strike Fighter Squadron 192 for flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. John C. Stennis is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and support missions as part of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.  Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Wayman.


Ask An Infantryman - The XBox Edition

Infantrymen!  You wise counsel is sought:

Dear Ask An Infantryman-

As a retired master blaster and CIB owner I need some advice.  I'm going through a really nasty divorce and my Ex decided to hit me where it hurts. Yes, she drove her truck over my XBox. MY. X. BOX.


She could have lit my awards on fire.  She could have poured out all of my single malt scotch.  She could have banged all my "friends".  But no.  She went for the goddamn XBox.

So I need advice on how to handle this situation...and, thanks but I've already got the "date a hotter girl than her" thing covered.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over? 


XBox-less, Not Dick-less

Grunts, leave your sage advice in the Comments.


Capt. Lucas Frokjer, officer in charge of the flightline for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, reunites with his family after returning from a seven-month deployment with HMH-463. The squadron arrived at Hangar 105 Sept. 17 and were welcomed home by a large crowd of family and friends. The squadron was replaced by HMH-363 who deployed to Afghanistan in August in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  Photo by Lance Corporal Jacob Barber.

Evan Pertile - SYSK Follow Up

How about some great news today?

RE: Evan Pertile - A Future Soldier You Should Know
RE: Spiritual Warfare Needed - Evan Pertile
RE: Some Spiritual and Caring Bridge Warfare Needed
RE: Evan Pertile - SYSK Follow Up
RE: Evan Pertile - Returned to Duty
RE: Evan Pertile - Future Soldier and SYSK Follow Up
RE: Evan Pertile - Update


Dear Evan's Army,

Wow - it has only been 9 or 10 months since I have updated this site.  I
thought I would take off the Christmas background and go back to ARMY STRONG
camo.  We have some exciting army events coming up so it is appropriate.

Evan is doing fantastic!  He has a check up at St. Jude in early October
with a MRI and other doctor visits and tests.  Can you believe we have been
home 2 years now from St. Jude?  While I still have major anxiety when he
goes back for the tests, the farther out we get the better!  Evan's cancer
will not come back.

Evan is now eight years old.  He loves playing golf with his Papa (he says
he is super at it after one week of golf camp.  I worry about his
self-esteem sometimes).  He is swimming on a year round swim team a couple
of times a week and doing soccer.  Wow!  Just to throw in more confusion he
will do a Lego Robotics after school activity that starts next week.  He
still is not at his pre-cancer strength and endurance but that's okay.  He's
not racing against Michael Phelps anytime soon.

His three brothers, William, Jonathan, and Xander are all doing well.  They
all have activities too.  Thank goodness Xander (age 4) only plays soccer!
Sweet Isabella Grace is 11 months old and is the happiest child I have ever
seen.  She reminds me so much of Evan as a baby.  She is not only content
but she is joyfull with a permanet smile.  I do feel a little bit sorry for
her.  There is no way she will EVER get a date with her four older
protective brothers!

Please consider walking with us on November 19th at 9:00 for the St. Jude
Give Thanks Walk.  You can join our team by clicking on the link below.  If
you can't walk with us, you can donate to the team.  This money helps St.
Jude find new treatments and someday a CURE for childhood cancer.  Won't it
be wonderful when it is gone?


We do have VERY EXCITING NEWS about Evan and the U.S. Army but that will be
a cliff hanger for now.  I promise it won't be 10 months before I tell you!
Maybe 2 days??


Rachel (and Army Strong Evan!!!)

Stay tuned...