French Government Honors Special Forces Soldiers

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2011 — They are used to their deeds pass as unno­ticed as their bat­tle­field move­ments, but six Spe­cial Forces sol­diers took the lime­light here last night to receive a French mil­i­tary award rough­ly equiv­a­lent to the Sil­ver Star.

Five Nation­al Guard sol­diers and one who serves on active duty were hon­ored with the Croix de la Valeur Mil­i­taire – or French Cross of Mil­i­tary Val­or — in a pri­vate cer­e­mo­ny at the French ambassador’s res­i­dence attend­ed by senior lead­ers includ­ing Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, Army chief of staff, and Army Maj. Gen. Tim­o­thy Kadavy, deputy direc­tor of the Army Nation­al Guard. 

“I am deeply hon­ored to … pay trib­ute to six most out­stand­ing Amer­i­can sol­diers from the Unit­ed States Army and the Army Nation­al Guard who dis­tin­guished them­selves while fight­ing the Tal­iban and al-Qai­da ele­ments in Afghanistan,” said French Ambas­sador François Delattre. 

“Through their out­stand­ing brav­ery and engage­ment in com­bat,” the ambas­sador con­tin­ued, “they fought at the risk of their own lives to assist French sol­diers, their broth­ers in arms, who expe­ri­enced a bar­rage of fire from the enemy.” 

The five Nation­al Guard sol­diers sup­port­ed a French reg­i­ment exe­cut­ing a mis­sion in and around Afghanistan’s Uzbeen Val­ley in 2009; the active duty sol­dier was rec­og­nized for sim­i­lar­ly hero­ic action in the same region a year earlier. 

“They were try­ing to get at the French oper­at­ing in the val­ley,” said Army Nation­al Guard Capt. Thomas Harp­er, one of the awardees. “We pre­vent­ed that from hap­pen­ing, allow­ing them to con­duct their mission.” 

Cre­at­ed in 1956 by the French gov­ern­ment to reward extra­or­di­nary deeds of brav­ery car­ried out as part of secu­ri­ty and law enforce­ment oper­a­tions, the Croix de la Valeur Mil­i­taire is one of the most respect­ed dec­o­ra­tions in the French mil­i­tary, Delat­tre said. 

“Your courage hon­ors you as well as your coun­try; your exem­plary ser­vice deserves to be com­mend­ed,” Delat­tre told Army Maj. Richard Nes­sel of the 10th Spe­cial Forces Group, the active duty sol­dier among the honorees. 

“You demon­strat­ed the high­est mil­i­tary qual­i­ties and sense of duty,” Delat­tre told the five Army Nation­al Guard sol­diers who received the award: Capt. Thomas Harp­er, Mas­ter Sgt. David Nue­mer, Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Ahern, Staff Sgt. Casey Roberts and Sgt. Ryan Meister. 

“You dis­tin­guished your­selves,” the ambas­sador added. “Your out­stand­ing con­duct along­side French forces, … your remark­able brav­ery in the face of dan­ger in the com­bat zone, and your superb com­bat­ant qual­i­ties deserve to be commended.” 

Harp­er, a tra­di­tion­al Guard mem­ber who has been on active duty most of the last decade, was joined by his par­ents and sis­ters at the cer­e­mo­ny. “It’s a huge hon­or for all of us,” he said. “They’re com­plete­ly over­whelmed. We don’t nor­mal­ly look for this kind of recog­ni­tion. I don’t think they’ve ever even been to one of my mil­i­tary school graduations.” 

The recog­ni­tion of the Guard mem­bers reflects the Guard’s con­tri­bu­tions to the total force, Dempsey said. 

“The last three award cer­e­monies I’ve been to hap­pen to have been Nation­al Guard sol­diers,” he said. “We’re real­ly one Army. It’s a sig­nal that, as we go for­ward in a new fis­cal envi­ron­ment, we have to main­tain faith with all three com­po­nents of our Army — active, Guard and Reserve. 

“It’s a great cred­it to the young men and women who serve,” Dempsey con­tin­ued. “I could­n’t be more proud of our Army in gen­er­al — but tonight is a night for five of these six sol­diers in par­tic­u­lar who hap­pen to be Nation­al Guard.” 

The Nation­al Guard has Spe­cial Forces sol­diers in 18 states. While they train and deploy just as active duty sol­diers, Guard mem­bers also must bal­ance civil­ian lives and careers. There are five active duty Spe­cial Forces groups, and two in the Nation­al Guard. 

“We’re in the right place at the wrong time,” quipped Army Nation­al Guard Brig. Gen. Steven Duff, deputy com­man­der, U.S. Army Spe­cial Forces Com­mand. “We’re every­where. We can do what­ev­er is nec­es­sary, and it shows that the cal­iber of our sol­diers is just as good as any­body else. 

“We are part of the oper­a­tional force. Giv­en the prop­er pre­dictabil­i­ty in our force-gen­er­a­tion mod­el, we can accom­plish any mis­sion that’s giv­en,” he added. 

“It says a lot about our units and our ded­i­ca­tion to duty and the train­ing that we’ve under­gone, as well as the matu­ri­ty of our sol­diers,” Harp­er said. 

“It’s a great hon­or,” said Ahern, a laser physi­cist in his civil­ian career who has spent four of the last 10 years deployed or recov­er­ing from com­bat-relat­ed injuries. 

Ahern’s par­ents, wife and daugh­ter accom­pa­nied him. “They see the news­pa­per sto­ries,” he said. “They hear abstract descrip­tions of what you’ve done. But they don’t real­ly see it first­hand, nor do they see recog­ni­tion, so this is a real­ly good opportunity.” 

A full nar­ra­tive of the exact events that earned the six their awards can­not be shared for oper­a­tional secu­ri­ty rea­sons. But it tells of men sur­round­ed, wild­ly out­num­bered and pinned down for hours, who fought on despite severe injuries. It tells off life­sav­ing bud­dy aid under with­er­ing, accu­rate fire — and of declin­ing med­ical evac­u­a­tion to stay in the fight until the last man was out safely. 

None of the Green Berets men­tioned any of this at the cer­e­mo­ny. They stepped briefly into the light to accept hon­ors. They said almost noth­ing of bat­tles fought in Afghanistan and in hos­pi­tals. They shook hands with senior lead­ers who had come to thank them and, by exten­sion, all those that serve along­side them. They shared the moment with par­ents, wives and chil­dren who rarely get to share in what they do — and slipped back into the night as mod­est­ly and qui­et­ly as they arrived. 

“We had kind of a tough fight those last few days in Afghanistan,” Harp­er said. “We were just hap­py to be alive. We real­ly did­n’t expect this kind of hon­or. It’s pret­ty over­whelm­ing, I’ll tell you. 

“We’re very qui­et in what we do,” he con­tin­ued. “We don’t expect recog­ni­tion. We don’t look for it. This has been a lit­tle much for us today, … but we’re hap­py that we could be here and that the French felt they could give us this extreme honor.” 

Navy Adm. Eric Olson, com­man­der of U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand; Army Lt. Gen. John Mul­hol­land, com­mand­ing gen­er­al of U.S. Army Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand; and Army Lt. Gen. Richard Zah­n­er, deputy chief of staff for intel­li­gence, also were on hand for the ceremony. 

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefence.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →