39 US Special Forces Soldiers Honored

Discussion in 'Multinational HQ' started by Trip_Wire, Mar 13, 2007.

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  1. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    39 Special Forces Soldiers Honored

    By Michael Futch
    Staff writer, Observer, Fayetteville, N.C

    Chief Warrant Officer Angel DeJesus was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star Medal during a ceremony held at Fort Bragg’s Ritz-Epps Physical Fitness Center on Wednesday.

    Ambushed and outmanned, with the detachment commander shot in the gut and enemy fire pelting the ground like rain around them, all Chief Warrant Officer Angel DeJesus could think about was the cruise.

    The planned cruise.

    The Disney cruise back home in the States with his wife and young daughter.

    “I decided I’m not going to die,” he said. “It was a matter of coming back.”

    For his bravery in combat on May 19 in a village in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan, the 37-year-old DeJesus was awarded the Silver Star Medal and a Purple Heart on Wednesday morning in a ceremony at Fort Bragg’s Ritz-Epps Physical Fitness Center.

    Staff Sgt. Erasmo Espino Jr. also received the Silver Star Medal, the Army’s third highest award for combat valor in the face of the enemy, during the 45-minute ceremony that was attended by an estimated 400 fellow Special Forces soldiers, friends and family members.

    “I was the only medic,” said Espino, who is 25. “I exposed myself to enemy fire numerous times. The fact that you saved somebody’s life — the fact that people are still living — means a lot.”

    Like DeJesus, Espino is assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg.

    Lt. Gen. Robert Wagner, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and Maj. Gen. Thomas Csrnko presented the awards. Csrnko serves as commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg.

    In all, 39 soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group — mostly from the 2nd and 3rd Battalions — were recognized for gallantry and courageous actions while deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Among others, Staff Sgt. Gary Wiedemann of 1st Battalion received the Soldier’s Medal.

    Forever linked:

    The lives of Chief Warrant Officer DeJesus and Staff Sgt. “Mo” Espino are forever linked because of what took place that day in May in the faraway land of Afghanistan.

    DeJesus, the youngest of four sons, is from Ponce in the south of Puerto Rico. Espino, who once dreamed of becoming a doctor or a lawyer, grew up in Eagle Pass in southern Texas. His father is Mexican; his mother, Mexican-American.

    These men were part of a detachment of some 24 soldiers conducting regular patrol when ambushed by an estimated 150 to 200 Taliban fighters, according to 7th Special Forces Group operations reports read during the ceremony. Their survival instincts took over while under a flurry of fire from rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, small arms and sniper fire.

    DeJesus suffered a gunshot wound through his left forearm as the soldiers started seeing immediate casualties. Espino realized a crew member in his vehicle was critically injured. After determining that the soldier had died, he “disregarded his own safety, grabbed his aid bag and moved from his covered position to treat other casualties in the kill zone under fire,” the reports said.

    In a separate interview, Espino said, “You have to be able to think; make quick decisions. You always fear you might get shot. It don’t come natural. We have extensive training.”

    While Espino treated the injured, DeJesus realized that Capt. Matt Johnsen had been hit seriously with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. “I saw Matt in the middle of the kill zone,” he said. “But I couldn’t just leave him there.”

    DeJesus left his covered position and maneuvered his way toward the commander. He then moved Johnsen and treated his wound while using his own body to shield the wounded captain from heavy fire.

    “DJ,” Johnsen said of DeJesus, “he’s the real deal.”

    DeJesus wanted to call in air support, but he recalled Espino telling him, “Brother, if we don’t get out of here soon, these guys are going to die.”

    The leadership Espino and DeJesus displayed is credited as the main reason the patrol was able to pull out of the ambush and return to the firebase, or camp. One American soldier died and eight others were wounded in the attack.

    Following the ceremony, Espino, DeJesus and other award recipients were made available to the media. That availability stands in contrast to years past when special operations were known to operate almost completely under the radar.

    Special Forces soldiers, who are specially trained, are known as “quiet professionals.”

    “Anything dealing with Special Forces is sensitive; the classified missions that we do. Our last couple of years we’ve realized more the importance of showing and letting people see what we do,” said Maj. Clarence Counts Jr., who is the public affairs officer for the 7th Special Forces Group.

    “The American people become more aware of our contributions and sacrifices. We don’t toot our own horns. We do what we do. We understand in the world today we need more exposure.”

    On this morning, blasts of “God Bless America” and other patriotic music played as soldiers in camouflage Army combat uniforms and guests in their Sunday best found seats around the hardwood floor of the gym. The score clock was off, but thoughts of victory in the global war on terrorism must have flickered through the minds of the 39 who stood at a position of parade rest during much of the ceremony.

    “I do what I do because of my daughter, my kids, my family,” DeJesus would say later. “Especially in this age of terrorism — they hate us. I would rather fight them on their turf so my daughter will be safe. I know it’s cliche, but basically that’s it.”

    Out front stood the rigid Espino and DeJesus, each wearing a green beret with the red shield-shaped embroidered flash of the 7th Special Forces Group. Espino’s eyes had dark rings, and DeJesus — a dozen years his senior — occasionally took a deep breath.

    Their stories from the day of the Taliban ambush were amplified inside the gym. Later, as Wagner addressed the assembly, a mother had to scoot along her fussy young daughter, who didn’t want to be reined in on this formal occasion.

    “Multiple times they put their lives at risk to save someone else,” Wagner said afterward. “It wasn’t just one time but multiple times during that event. Without what they did other people would have lost their lives and the mission would have been a failure.”

    The Silver Star Medal, Wagner explained, “It is something special.”

    “I’m very proud,” said Laly DeJesus, Angel’s wife. “It means a lot.”

    According to his award citation, Espino displayed “coolness under fire and a willingness to repeatedly expose himself to enemy fire to save and protect his fellow soldiers.”

    DeJesus’ actions are said to have effectively disrupted the enemy ambush. “What he did was definitely not exaggerated,” Johnsen said. “The amount of fire he went through. To tell you the truth, we should not have come out of that alive.”

    But in the midst of that hell on earth, DeJesus had a heavenly Disney cruise floating in his mind.

    And besides, the newly honored Silver Star recipient said, “It was already paid for.”
     
  2. Humbling. Talking of purple hearts, did anyone catch that excellent documentary, Baghdad ER on the box the other night? Young US soldiers dropping like flies, being awarded purple hearts without the pomp and ceremony. It was quite cold, really. The CO said a few half-hearted words and slapped a purple heart on the chest of the maimed, in shock infantryman who was lying on a hospital trolley having just been brought in. And then the CO was gone. The young man deserved better.
     
  3. Trip. nice post.
    How much would a basic, badged, member of the USSF get paid. Private or whatever you would call them. How would that compare to, say, a lawyer in govt service?
    I imagine that you would protest that these men were not motivated by money, but I argue that professional soldiers require professional's pay.
    Genuine search for knowledge.
     
  4. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    Firstly, there are no Privates in the 18x (Special Forces ODAs) job specialties. The lowest rank in an ODA (12 man team) most likely would be a Sgt. (E-5,) most other enlisted members would be SSG, (Staff Sgt.) SFC (Sgt. First Class) and MSG (Master Sgt.) A Captain as Team Leader and WO as XO.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/a-team.htm

    They get jump pay, combat pay (If in Combat area.) and the normal allowances (Housing, etc.) for their rank, other wise they get paided for the rank they carry.

    http://www.dod.mil/dfas/militarypay/2006militarypaytables/2007_Web_Pay_Table.pdf

    Of course, one of the reasons that so many SF troops are not reenlisting, although high reenlistment bonuses are being paid for those MOS, is the high pay afforded these soldiers in the civilian security market, like Blackwater, etc.

    http://www.special-operations-technology.com/article.cfm?DocID=895
     
  5. Good job.

    Sometimes I think half my garrison time was spent in that friggin' place!
     
  6. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    Of course, I have spent time at Ft. Bragg too, especially 'Smoke Bomb Hill.'

    Although I was born in a small town in Mississippi, I have never liked living or being stationed in the South! To damn hot! :thumbdown:
     
  7. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    It is quite common, to be awarded the Purple Heart in that manner. It was done in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and now the GWOT. I got mine that way in the Korean war, at the a MASH unit in Korea, before I was air evacuated to Japan.
     
  8. It seems cruel, but most of the guys in my unit iddn't really care. they either wanted to get back into the fight, or go home. haha. Besides, you know your people pretty well in your unit and you know that they care alot more. Sometimes it's just too busy to stay and chat. Or sometimes people don't want to get in the way. Alot of reasons really.

    And you know Trip, they're starting to look at E-4's now. once they pass everything and they get tabbed, they get their E-5. Had a few friends do it already.
     
  9. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    Thus my comment that Sgt. (E-5) is about the lowest rank one will find on an ODA. Yes, 'they' are looking at people off the street and Army wide, for people to attend the SFAS and/or the 'Q' course. This was done as well in the Vietnam era. Most SF members, don't like it, but given the operational tempo in Special Operations units, something had to be done.

    http://www.bragg.army.mil/specialforces/SFAS.htm

    I suspect that between the schools, etc. that only the 'best' will survive; however, once the individual is assigned to an ODA his fellow team members will sort him out real quick.

    As they say in the teams.: Your Rucksack is in the Hall!
     
  10. Humbling read trip

    Tet no one takes the mickey out of DeJesus's home town in front of him again!

    Hope he enjoyed the cruise it was well earnt!