Tag Archives: Afghanistan

NCO killed in Afghanistan posthumously promoted, awarded Bronze Star

NCO Journal staff report

Sgt. John Perry, 30, was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star after being killed in a suicide bombing in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, who also died in the Veterans Day attack, served with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, which has been deployed to Afghanistan since late summer.

Two military contractors were also killed in the bombing.

“I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the fallen, and I want to reassure the loved ones of those injured that they are getting the best possible care,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a news release. “Force protection is always a top priority for us in Afghanistan, and we will investigate this tragedy to determine any steps we can take to improve it. For those who carried out this attack, my message is simple. We will not be deterred in our mission to protect our homeland and help Afghanistan secure its own future.”


Sixteen other U.S. service members and one Polish soldier were wounded in the Bagram blast by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest, the Pentagon said. The Taliban claimed responsibility. The attacker struck as people were gathering for a Veterans Day fun run.

Days earlier, six people were killed and more than 100 were wounded at the German Consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, the Associated Press reported.

Perry joined the Army in 2008 and was a test, measurement and diagnostic equipment maintenance support specialist who had been at Bagram about two months, the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News reported. He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan, having served there from August 2010 to July 2011. Iubelt joined the Army last year and was a motor transport operator. He was on his first deployment, arriving in Afghanistan in September.

Perry’s father, Stewart Perry, told California television station Fox 40 that before the bombing, Perry had changed a training location, moving a group of Soldiers away from the larger crowd gathered for the run.

“He made a decision that saved a lot of people’s lives,” Stewart Perry said.

Perry’s father and other members of his family traveled to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, to meet Staff Sgt. Perry’s remains. That trip made headlines after first-class passengers reportedly booed when Stewart Perry and his family were let off a plane early to catch a connecting flight.

Stewart Perry, though, commended the Army and the government for its treatment of his son and his family to Fox 40. Vice President Joe Biden was among the dignitaries who met the family at Dover Air Force Base.

“We really appreciate what Vice President Biden did and his care,” Stewart Perry said. “He stood on that flight line and saluted with his hand across his chest.”


Green Beret killed by IED in Afghanistan

NCO Journal staff report

Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California, died Aug. 23, of wounds received from an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Thompson was assigned to A Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Thompson was on his first deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. He had previously deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“He was an exceptional Green Beret, a cherished teammate, and devoted husband. His service in Afghanistan and Iraq speak to his level of dedication, courage, and commitment to something greater than himself,” said Lt. Col. Kevin M. Trujillo, commander of Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan.

“The Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan will honor his memory and sacrifice and his passing is a tremendous loss to all who were blessed to know him,” Trujillo added.

Thompson enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 2011 as a Special Forces candidate. Upon completion of Army Basic Combat and Advanced Individual Training, Basic Airborne Course, Special Forces Assessment and Selection and the Special Forces Qualification Course, he reported to 1st Special Forces Group as a Special Forces medical sergeant in August 2014.

Thompson’s military education includes Basic Combat Training, the Basic Airborne Course, the Advanced Leader Course, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course, the Special Forces Qualification Course and the Special Operations Combat Medic Course.

His wife of five years, Rachel Thompson, spoke to Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV after his death, and said Thompson was with a joint U.S.-Afghan foot patrol clearing IEDs when he died.

Rachel Thompson said her husband lost his life doing what he loved.

“He had the time of his life,” she told WTMJ, calling her husband “fearless.”

Another U.S. Soldier was injured in the attack, as were six Afghan troops, according to the Army Times.

Thompson is the second U.S. combat death in Afghanistan this year. Sgt. 1st Class Matthew McClintock died in Helmand earlier this year.

About 700 U.S. troops are deployed in Helmand, and about 10,000 deployed to Afghanistan. Just before Thompson’s death, the Defense Department announced another 100 Soldiers would be sent to that country.

Thompson’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (numeral 2), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Basic Parachutist Badge and Special Forces Tab.

Thompson was posthumously awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star Medal with V device, and Purple Heart Medal.

— Lisa Ferdinando of Department of Defense News contributed to this report.

This Month in NCO History: April 14, 2004 — A running start on the long road back

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article included an incorrect image of Staff Sgt. Michael J. McNaughton. It has since been removed.

Staff Sgt. Michael J. McNaughton was met by a crisp breeze and an overcast sky when he stepped outside for a run the morning of April 14, 2004. The occasional drizzle magnified the chilly conditions. But the weather was not a deterrent. This run was 15 months in the making and McNaughton wasn’t going to disappoint his running partner — President George W. Bush.

McNaughton’s run took place after a private workout with the president at the White House. The pair ran a mile around the South Lawn. Bush did it on aching knees. McNaughton did it on a prosthetic leg.

President George W. Bush runs with U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. McNaughton on the South Lawn on April 14, 2004. The two met Jan. 17, 2003, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where McNaughton was recovering from wounds sustained in Afghanistan. The President wished McNaughton a speedy recovery so that they might run together in the future. (White House photo)
President George W. Bush runs with U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. McNaughton on the South Lawn on April 14, 2004. The two met Jan. 17, 2003, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where McNaughton was recovering from wounds sustained in Afghanistan. The President wished McNaughton a speedy recovery so that they might run together in the future. (White House photo)

McNaughton lost his right leg after he stepped on a land mine Jan. 9, 2003, near Bagram Air Base in the Parwan province of Afghanistan. McNaughton was part of a Louisiana National Guard mine-sweeping unit at the air base nearly 30 miles north of Kabul. That fateful morning, he learned his Soldiers would be sweeping a nearby field for trash burning. McNaughton emailed his wife before walking onto the field with a Polish officer to assess what the job would require. On the way back he triggered the explosive device and was sent hurtling into the air.

His right leg was gone and his left leg was severely injured. But McNaughton was alive. He was flown to Germany and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, then located in Washington, D.C., where he began an arduous road to recovery. Eight days into his stay, McNaughton met Bush during a visit by the president and first lady.

“I was on morphine,” McNaughton recalled in a video for the George W. Bush Presidential Center. “Once I saw him and his wife come in, it was pretty darn cool. He came over and kissed me on the forehead. Really nice, really nice to my wife. … We just started talking about what I was going to do. I just told him one day I was going to run again.”

McNaughton made the pledge despite not knowing about the extent of his injuries or how he would adjust to a prosthetic limb. Even so, he upped the ante on his bold claim.

“As a matter of fact,” McNaughton told Bush, “I’m going to outrun you.”

Bush told him he’d be glad to allow McNaughton to make good on his promise and pledged to keep in touch with the wounded Soldier until he became well enough to hit the pavement. McNaughton underwent a dozen surgeries and extensive rehabilitation throughout the following year. Ultimately he lost a piece of his left leg and two fingers as well as his right leg as a result of the blast. He had only been able to run on his newly fitted prosthetic leg for two weeks before he called the president the following spring.

After the visit, McNaughton said the president wished him well. He said it was an honor to spend time with the commander-in-chief and a moment he knew the future would be bright. Less than six months later, McNaughton ran his first 5-mile race. He ran as often as he could while he completed his Army career, leaving as a sergeant first class in 2007. He then began work with the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. McNaughton eventually gave up running because of the discomfort, but he continued his athletic forays through cycling and parlayed that into a managerial stint with Ride 2 Recovery, a cycling-based veterans program. He resumed working with the Louisiana VA in 2011.

McNaughton is a native of Yonkers, New York. He originally enlisted in 1990, spending 10 years with the Army before deciding the toll of his absences on his family was too high. He left in December 2000 after spending time in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bosnia. He watched the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold on television from his home in Denham Springs, Louisiana, and seethed. His ties to the New York area pulled at him and he joined the Louisiana National Guard in November. When he learned the Army needed volunteers to clear mines, he asked for the assignment without hesitation — it would change his life forever. But McNaughton’s resolve has never wavered, and it all started with that visit from the president.

“He can do other stuff with his time,” McNaughton said. “He was the president, so he can do million-dollar speeches but he’s taking the time to do this. It’s really good that he gives us the opportunity to see each other. We’ve all been through hell. Now, we just want to have a good time and enjoy ourselves.”

— Compiled by Pablo Villa


Parents of Green Beret killed in action will attend State of the Union tonight

President Barack Obama works on the State of the Union address Jan. 11 in the Oval Office with Director of Speechwriting Cody Keenan and Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, in the Oval Office Jan. 11, 2016. (Photo courtesy of White House)

NCO Journal report

When President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union address at 9 Eastern tonight, the parents of slain U.S. Army Special Forces 1st Sgt. P. Andrew McKenna Jr. will be in the House chamber to hear it.

Carol and Peter McKenna will be guests of U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-Rhode Island. Their son was killed Aug. 7 in Afghanistan during a gun battle that followed a suicide bombing, the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal reported. He was credited with saving lives while defending the base, the newspaper reported.

“We are honored to be attending the State of the Union … as Congressman Cicilline’s guests,” the McKennas, who live in Bristol, Rhode Island, said in a news release from Cicilline’s office. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

First Sgt. McKenna was killed during an attack by the Taliban on Camp Integrity, a NATO facility in Kabul.

The Green Beret first joined the military one month after graduating Mount Hope High School in Bristol in 1998. Over 17 years of active service, he completed five tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq and was decorated with numerous awards, including the Bronze Star with V device and the Meritorious Service Medal. McKenna graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in strategic studies from Norwich University in 2015. He was planning to pursue a master’s degree once his deployment ended in October.

One month before his death, 1st Sgt. McKenna returned home to the East Bay, where he was recognized during the Bristol Fourth of July Parade. In the release, Cicilline, who attended the parade and thanked McKenna for his service, said, “Andrew McKenna was a true hero who embodied the very best of Rhode Island values. His patriotism, loyalty, and sense of shared purpose were reflections of his strong character and the values he learned growing up in Bristol. I am deeply honored that his parents, Carol and Peter, will join me [at] the State of the Union.”

Members of Congress receive one ticket for a guest to attend the State of the Union. U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, donated his ticket so both of 1st Sgt. McKenna’s parents could attend.

Former NCO, quadruple amputee inspires others to ‘Never give up. Never quit.’

NCO Journal staff report

Staff Sgt. Travis Mills didn’t enjoy the pomp that most individuals revel in during the lead-up to their 25th birthday. Mills was weeks into his third deployment to Afghanistan as part of the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as his milestone date neared.

On April 10, 2012 — four days before turning 25 — Mills was on a routine patrol in Afghanistan’s Ghanzi province when he stopped to set his backpack down. The bag detonated an improvised explosive device and changed Mills’ life forever.

“I woke up for the first time on my 25th birthday to find out that I had no arms and legs anymore,” Mills said last month in a video interview for NowThis News.

Mills bookMills is one of five surviving quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His story is told in the new book, Tough As They Come, released by Convergent Books on Oct. 27. Mills co-authored the book, available in hardcover, on Kindle and Audible, with Marcus Brotherton. It chronicles Mills’ journey from being a high-school star athlete to suddenly being forced to reconcile with the fact that he no longer had arms or legs. Mills is also the subject of a documentary, “Travis: A Soldier’s Story,” released by Fotolanthropy in 2013.

A medic reached Mills moments after the blast and affixed tourniquets to his 6-foot-3 frame to keep him from bleeding out. Even under extreme duress, Mills could only think of others.

“I was yelling at him to get away from me,” Mills told the Associated Press. “I told him to leave me alone and go help my guys.

“And he told me: ‘With all due respect, Sgt. Mills, shut up. Let me do my job.’”

The medic saved Mills’ life. His limbs, however, were lost. Mills knew at that moment he faced a drastically different future. He would never again be able to lead his squad, hug his wife or pick up his infant daughter.

“I guess the last thing I said was, ‘My baby girl, am I ever going to see her again,’” Mills said in the documentary. “I was really worried about what life was going to be like afterward, you know, like with all this.”

Mills struggled during the painful and anxious early days of rehabilitation. He could do nothing for himself. He questioned his self-worth. He implored his wife to leave him so that she wouldn’t be burdened by his condition. His demeanor changed when his six-month-old daughter would crawl on his chest at the hospital.

“(She) didn’t realize anything was different about me,” Mills said. “So, at that moment I realized I had to make sure that I pushed forward and took care of my family like I was supposed to do. … So, I just decided to take physical therapy and occupational therapy as a real job.”

The road was long and arduous — doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center told Mills his rehabilitation and transition to prosthetics would take three years. Through tremendous willpower Mills completed his rehab in 13 months. He said paperwork added four months to that period.

Today, Mills has focused on being a living embodiment of his personal motto, “Never give up. Never quit.” Referring to himself as a “recalibrated Soldier” rather than a wounded warrior, he can not only walk on prosthetic legs, he can run, drive, snowboard and ride downhill on a mountain bike. In 2014, he took part in a jump with the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team.

In tandem with the book he recently completed, Mills has also been building the Travis Mills Foundation, which he founded in September 2013. The nonprofit supports combat-wounded veterans and their families by developing and maintaining long-term programs that help wounded Soldiers overcome physical obstacles, strengthen their families and provide adaptive recreation.

“We try to bring in people that have been wounded overseas that are now recalibrated warriors,” Mills told NowThis. “They’re no longer wounded. But they might need help learning how to kayak, canoe, boat, swim, fish. Get, you know, their confidence back where they can go back out in public and do whatever they need to do. I want people in my situation to know that it’s OK the way you look, it’s OK to struggle. You’re going to fall down. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Just get out there and keep going at it.”

Mills currently lives in Manchester, Maine, with his wife, Kelsey, and daughter, Chloe, in a 4,000-square-foot house laden with technological amenities designed to help Mills with day-to-day activities. The home was a gift from a foundation established by actor Gary Sinise and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a nonprofit named for a firefighter killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is a comfortable setting for Mills to continue his work to help himself and others.

“I put personal friends in body bags. They’re not here. I am,” Mills told CNN last year. “How selfish would it be if I gave up?”

Gen. David M. Rodriguez, left, and his wife, Ginny, second from right, met with Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, foreground, and his wife, Kelsey, right, during the 2012 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition. Mills was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from life-threatening injuries sustained during his third deployment to Afghanistan. Mills, a quadruple amputee, and his wife were honored guests at the AUSA Eisenhower Luncheon. (Photo courtesy of Army News Service)
Gen. David M. Rodriguez, left, and his wife, Ginny, second from right, met with Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, foreground, and his wife, Kelsey, right, during the 2012 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition. Also pictured is Mills’ brother-in-law, Staff Sgt. Josh Buck. Mills was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from life-threatening injuries sustained during his third deployment to Afghanistan. Mills, a quadruple amputee, and his wife were honored guests at the AUSA Eisenhower Luncheon. (Photo courtesy of Army News Service)