SSgt. Matthew Blaskowski

Staff SgtMatthew Blaskowski - Chosen Company, 2/503rd PIR. On 3 May 2005, elements of 3rd Platoon, 1st Platoon and the Company Headquarters were called forward into the Arghandab River Valley to the village of Bulac Kalay to assist fellow Rock Paratroopers under attack by enemy forces. The ensuing 6 hour fight left 17 enemies killed and 10 captured. Chosen Company evacuated four of our own to medical facilities in Germany - SSG Matthew Blaskowski, SGT Tim Brumley, PFC Matthew King and PFC Tyler Wilson. Several other soldiers received minor wounds and are back to duty with the company. Chosen Company performed their duty against America’s enemies in truly remarkable fashion with ferocious and raw courage.

As events transpired, each paratrooper rose to the challenge and fought with determined resolve that won the day. I am truly amazed at the heroic effort each and every member from the riflemen to the mortar crews put forth – all moving together, each knowing his actions directly impacted on his brothers on either side of himself. I am proud beyond mere words of our paratroopers.

We delivered a decisive blow against evil. Listed below will be the status of our wounded paratroopers. We will keep in contact with them during their recovery. Together we shall remain strong and continue to make the world a safer place.

SSgt. Patrick Brannon

Silver Stars were presented to Staff Sgt. Matthew Blaskowski and Staff Sgt. Christopher Choay, of Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), and Staff Sgt. Patrick Brannan of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) by Gen. John Abizaid, U.S. Central Command commander, for actions taken during a battle May 3 near Baluc-Kalay in Zabul Province.


SSgt. Christopher Choay

Silver Stars were presented to Staff Sgt. Matthew Blaskowski and Staff Sgt. Christopher Choay, of Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), and Staff Sgt. Patrick Brannan of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) by Gen. John Abizaid, U.S. Central Command commander, for actions taken during a battle May 3 near Baluc-Kalay in Zabul Province.

Choay credits his squad and fellow paratroopers for their actions taken that day during the fire fight.

"It's really about your buddy to your left and right," said Choay, "Take care of them. It's a very big responsibility. We've all got family members or loved ones, or something motivating to go home to."

"As long as you take of your buddy ... the mission will be accomplished and we'll all go home."

Sgt 1st Class Bradly M. Felix
Sgt 1st Class Roger G. Watts
Staff Sgt. David G. Colucci

All assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), stood before more than 60 guests at a Valor Awards Ceremony June 28, 2005 at U. S. Army Special Operations Command here as Lt. General Philip Kensinger, USASOC commander, awarded each the Silver Star.

Listening to the retelling of their fearless actions was emotional for the Soldiers.

“It was humbling because I have two buddies not with me anymore,” Felix said of the Sept. 20, 2004 ambush in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, where he rallied Afghan National Army Soldiers to fire back on the ambushing anti-coalition militia. “But at the same time I’m honored.”

The award keeps the memory of his fallen comrades alive, Felix said.

For Watts, the ceremony was an opportunity to recall the May 12, 2004, firefight near Karbala, Iraq, where, while serving as the senior medical sergeant and assault cell leader, he left his own vehicle to administer life-saving aid while under intense mortar and small-arms fire to two crew members of a disabled tank. He then assumed command of the tank.

Modest about their awards, Felix and Watts, both instructors at Camp Mackall, said they have incorporated their combat experiences into the training scenarios used to indoctrinate potential Special Forces Soldiers.

Recognizing the importance of first-hand knowledge in this unconventional war, Watts said he “wants to make sure I can pass my experience to the junior guys.”

Telling the audience they were in the company of heroes, Col. Patrick M. Higgins, commander of the 3rd SFG, praised the men for braving hostile fire, repelling assaults, deflecting ambushes and being upstanding men.

The men, however, say they feel they did nothing extraordinary or worthy of receiving the fourth highest medal in the Army.

“It was instinctive,” asserts Felix, who has been in three near ambushes. “The training kicks in and you do what you need to do.”

“The medal means a lot to the team as a whole because it’s a reflection of the team,” said Watts, insisting his individual actions didn’t deserve an award. “If it wasn’t for their support, it could have been a different outcome that night.”

No lives were lost in the Karbala attack.

Colucci was awarded the Silver Star for his unwavering bravery during an ambush in Afghanistan June 25, 2004. He was serving as the senior engineer sergeant.

While conducting a recovery operation of an improvised explosive device, Colucci’s convoy came under attack. Although he suffered a gunshot wound to his abdomen, Colucci maneuvered his vehicle into a protective position and pulled security for his fellow Soldiers until reinforcements arrived. He then manned the door gunner machinegun while his element moved into a secure area to wait for medical evacuation.

The Silver Star is awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

The required gallantry, while of a lesser degree than that required for the Distinguished Service Cross, must nevertheless have been performed with marked distinction.

CWO3 Christopher Palumbo

An Army aviator was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in a ceremony Oct. 1 in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Three Christopher Palumbo from A Co., 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, was awarded the medal for his actions April 11. Palumbo was the pilot in command of "Skillful 31," the call sign for a UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter conducting aviation operations in Southeast Afghanistan that came under fire while supporting Special Operations Soldiers.

"I was going to do whatever it took to ensure those Special Forces soldiers were protected and spared from any further injuries," Palumbo said. While inserting a quick reaction force and extracting two wounded Soldiers, Palumbo and his crew were credited with killing more than six enemy and were constantly under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

"None of the crew aboard Skillful 31 had any reservations," Palumbo said. "Over 50 bullet holes, shot-up engine, shot-up cabin and cockpit, one crew chief wounded, four blades tore up…we were lucky." Luck may have had something to do with it but Palumbo said, "I think while the fight played out instinct took over and training just kicked in."

Palumbo worried for the safety of his crew but said that none of his crew had any reservations about the importance of the mission or more importantly the troops on the ground.

"I think this incident just reinforced the bond that aviators have with their infantry brethren and reminds us that the war in Afghanistan is not over," said Palumbo. "There are many soldiers all over this country taking the fight to the enemy and persevering." The news of the award shocked Palumbo.

"I never realized the magnitude of the actions we took that day," he said.

Master Sgt. Suran Sar

CAMP H.M. SMITH — Even as Master Sgt. Suran Sar charged multiple enemy firing at him in the mountains of Afghanistan, he knew it wasn’t his turn to die. But he came within a hairbreadth. As Sar burst into a windowless wood-and-earthen mountain shelter near the Pakistan border, an enemy fighter fired a burst from his AK-47 at point-blank range.

Two of the bullets missed. A third creased Sar’s Kevlar helmet and snapped his chin strap. Sar won’t give the specifics of what happened next, but the Army Special Forces soldier collected a handful of firearms — most of which weren’t given voluntarily. And yesterday a Silver Star was pinned on Sar’s chest.

Recalling the March 5 firefight, Sar said: “At that point, I knew I’m coming home.” He added, “I already know, if I’m supposed to go, I do believe, I’m Buddhist, and if I’m supposed to go, I’ll go.”

Sar, who is Cambodian and has been a U.S. citizen since 1986, that day flanked a ridge and surprised other militants who had his team pinned down, and is credited with saving the lives of fellow service members with Operational Detachment Alpha 732.

Yesterday’s recognition was the latest remarkable turn for the humble man who is based at Camp Smith but grew up under the murderous regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

“He didn’t want this,” Army Brig. Gen. David P. Fridovich, commander of Special Operations Command-Pacific, said of the ceremony attended by more than 100 command members and local media.

The attention was not intended to embarrass Sar, 39, which it did. Rather, it was to recognize his achievements and “what he has given back to the nation,” Fridovich said.

“You’ve already given us so much more in return than we could ever repay you,” Fridovich said.


SSgt. Michael W. Schafer

Staff Sergeant Michael W. Schafer, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, was a member of a quick-response unit dispatched to help fellow soldiers under fire. He was killed around 6:00 a.m. Afghanistan time Monday, July 25, 2005. He was on a patrol near Kandahar, in a town called

Oruzgan when he was shot once. He was up front as a squad leader. He told his squad to run, which is when he was shot again.

He was one of the first paratroopers to jump into Kirkuk, Iraq, in March 2003. He helped secure a landing strip. He did nine months there and was awarded the Bronze Star.

While serving in Iraq, two of his good friends were killed. One friend was killed when Mike, who was given the chance to come home for two weeks, turned it down so his friend could go home instead and meet his newborn child. After getting on a bus to take leave, his friend was killed, leaving Mike crushed.

Before being deployed to Afghanistan, Mike went to see his friend's parents.

He got a tattoo on his leg. It had a cross, a star and dog tags that were red, white and blue. "My Fallen Brothers," it said.

Cpl. Pat Tillman

WASHINGTON — Pat Tillman died while leading a team of Army Rangers up a remote southeastern Afghan hill to knock out enemy fire that had pinned down other American soldiers, the Army said Friday.

The Army released details of the former Arizona Cardinals football player's death as it announced that he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, its third-highest award for combat valor.

Tillman, 27, and his team were initially not in danger from the hostile small-arms and mortar fire when the April 22 ambush began. But when the rear section of their convoy became pinned down in rough terrain, Tillman ordered his team out of its vehicles "to take the fight to the enemy forces" on the higher ground.

As Tillman and other soldiers neared the hill's crest, he directed his team into firing positions, the Army said. As he sprayed the enemy positions with fire from his automatic rifle, he was shot and killed. The Army said his actions helped the trapped soldiers maneuver to safety "without taking a single casualty."

Walter Sokalski, a spokesman for Army Special Forces Command, said the Silver Star will be presented to Tillman's family Monday during a public memorial service in San Jose, Calif.

"It will be presented by members of the 75th Ranger Regiment, by soldiers that knew him," Sokalski said. Tillman was in the 2nd battalion of the regiment, based out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

Tillman, who walked away from a $3.6 million contract extension offered by the Cardinals to join the Army in 2002, this week also was posthumously promoted to corporal from specialist.

Pentagon officials had previously given only sketchy details of the fighting 26 miles southwest of Khost, saying the ambush occurred about 7:30 p.m. local time near the village of Sperah, and that two other soldiers were wounded and an Afghan Militia Force soldier was killed.

Tillman's platoon was in the region as part of a spring offensive called Operation Mountain Storm, aimed at rooting out hard-line Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

But according to the details provided Friday, Tillman led his Ranger team that day "without regard for his own safety," and was shot and killed heroically trying to protect his comrades.

Tillman's platoon had been split into two sections during a patrol.

Tillman, a team leader, was in the platoon's front when the rear section was hit with enemy fire. Because of the rough terrain, "the trail element was unable to maneuver out of the kill zone and it was difficult for the embattled trail section to target the enemy positions," according the Army's description of the events.

Although his group was safely out of that danger area, the Army said Tillman ordered his team members to get out of their vehicles and maneuver up a hill near the enemy's location. As they got to the crest of the hill, "Tillman's voice was heard issuing commands to take the fight to the enemy forces ... on the dominating high ground." It was during this effort, as he provided suppressive fire, that Tillman was shot and killed, the Army said.

Sokalski said he had no information Friday on whether any of the enemy attackers have been identified or captured.

During a briefing Friday with Pentagon reporters, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, which includes operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, said he was able to talk Thursday with 1st Lt. Dave Hutman, Tillman's platoon leader.

"I asked him about Pat Tillman," Abizaid told the reporters. "He said, 'Pat Tillman was a great Ranger and a great soldier, and what more can I say about him?'"

"When he was talking to me, he was still nursing a large number of wounds that he sustained in that firefight where Pat Tillman lost his life," Abizaid said.


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