SHAKO: A Fourth Iraq-Afghanistan Medal of Honor Recipient

February 14, 2013 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

Outnumbered, Outgunned — but NOT Overwhelmed

Photo Credit: Leroy Council, AMVIDPresident Barack  Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha during a White House ceremony on Feb. 11, 2013. (Photo Credit: Leroy Council, AMVID)

President Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha during a White House ceremony on Feb. 11, 2013. (Photo Credit: Leroy Council, AMVID)

On Monday (Feb. 11) Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military decoration for bravery. That makes him only the fourth living American service member to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in the Iraq and Afghan wars. Seven others have received the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The staff sergeant, retired now, and working in the oil fields of North Dakota, was cited for his heroic actions in a horrendous battle at a besieged outpost in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province more than three years ago.

On the morning of October 9, 2009, Combat Outpost Keating — manned by just 53 soldiers at the bottom of a deep valley — was attacked from all sides by as many as 300 Taliban fighters firing machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds down onto the tiny post.

“These men were outnumbered, outgunned and almost overrun,” President Obama said at the medal award ceremony in the White House. But they fought back, even after the enemy breached the perimeter defenses.

Obama noted that Romesha was not the only hero in Outpost Keating that day. For their actions on Oct. 9, 2009 the defenders earned 37 Army commendation medals, 27 Purple Heart medals, 18 Bronze Star medals and nine Silver Stars.

We’ll let the Army citation for Romesha’s actions that day speak for itself:

Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on October 3rd, 2009.

On that morning, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his comrades awakened to an attack by an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, employing concentrated fire from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small-arms fire. Staff Sergeant Romesha moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action with the support of an assistant gunner.

Staff Sergeant Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team, and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds. Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight, and upon the arrival of another Soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional Soldiers.

Staff Sergeant Romesha then mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle. With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter.

While orchestrating a successful plan to secure and reinforce key points of the battlefield, Staff Sergeant Romesha maintained radio communication with the tactical operations center. As the enemy forces attacked with even greater ferocity, unleashing a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds, Staff Sergeant Romesha identified the point of attack and directed air support to destroy over 30 enemy fighters.

After receiving reports that seriously injured Soldiers were at a distant battle position, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire to allow the injured Soldiers to safely reach the aid station. Upon receipt of orders to proceed to the next objective, his team pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming enemy fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of their fallen comrades.

Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers. His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating.

Staff Sergeant Romesha’s discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty reflect great credit upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.

When President Obama called Romesha to tell him that he would receive the Medal of Honor at the White House, Romesha said he was honored. “But he also said, it wasn’t just me out there, it was a team effort,” Obama recalled. He cited the fallen, as well as survivors of Romesha’s team in the audience, at the ceremony.

The following soldiers were killed that day in the defense of Outpost Keating: Private First Class Kevin Thomson; Sergeant Michael Scusa; Sergeant Joshua Kirk; Sergeant Christopher Griffin; Staff Sergeant Justin Gallegos; Staff Sergeant Vernon Martin; Sergeant Joshua Hardt; and Specialist Stephan Mace.

To read more about Staff Sgt. Romesha and other Medal of Honor recipients, click here.

SHAKO

SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

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Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Counter Insurgency, National Security and Defense, SHAKO, Traditions, Washington. Tags: , , , , , .

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