Tag Archives: Combat Outpost Keating

Soldiers with post-traumatic stress have a champion in MOH recipient Carter

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

The fierce battle for Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan almost five years ago transformed Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter’s life in more ways than one.

Last year, Carter was the second survivor of the Battle of Kamdesh to receive the Medal of Honor for his defense of COP Keating, after former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha received it in February 2013. The attack on Oct. 3, 2009, in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province ended in the deaths of eight U.S. Soldiers and injuries to an additional 25.

Though the Battle of Kamdesh resulted in the highest military honor for Carter, it also brought a far more personal challenge that he continues to deal with ─ post traumatic stress.

Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter says the first step toward removing the stigma from post-traumatic stress is removing the "D" for disorder. (Photo by Martha C. Koester)
Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter says the first step toward removing the stigma from post-traumatic stress is removing the “D” for disorder. (Photo by Martha C. Koester)

The way Carter sees it, that’s all it is, and no D ─ for “disorder” ─ is necessary.

“Something happened to me that was traumatic,” he said. “I am experiencing stress afterward; that’s it. It’s not a disorder. There’s no chemical imbalance. It’s just an instinctive reflex that your body and mind do to avoid that traumatic incident again. … Every time I hear somebody put the D on there, [I want to yell] ‘Ugh!’”

Carter, who is assigned to the 7th Infantry Division’s headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., is on a mission to use his award toward a greater good. He wants to help others who are suffering from post-traumatic stress ─ and not just those in the military services, but among the American people as well.

“As a first sergeant or a sergeant major, it’s like you’re taking a pebble and tossing it into a lake or a pond that makes ripples [among your Soldiers],” he said. “Right now, I have got a very big stone I’m tossing in the ocean, and there’s no idea of how far this message can and will go, and how many people whom [my wife] Shannon and I can reach by pushing this message out. … If service members, or even civilians, choose to seek help because they have been educated in what post-traumatic stress is, then possibly we can save lives in the services and also outside the services.”

Removing the stigma from post-traumatic stress is his main focus and one he takes seriously as a noncommisioned officer.

“As a section leader, we train our Soldiers,” Carter said. “We give them what they need to prepare themselves for combat. We give them what they need to help their families prepare for them being deployed in combat. We also train them on how to come home properly.

“Now, post-traumatic stress is not something that’s new,” he continued. “Severe post-traumatic stress, the only reason why we acknowledge it is because it changes the way you see things. It affects your body and your mind. It turns [PTS] into a reflex to where you remember what happened so you can avoid the incident.”

Though post-traumatic stress is often associated with combat veterans, it may result from a natural disaster, physical abuse or any other traumatic event, according to the PTS resources at Military One Source’s website, www.militaryonesource.mil.

Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter is the second survivor of the Battle of Kamdesh to be awarded the Medal of Honor, after former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha received it in February 2013.  (Photo by Martha C. Koester)
Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter is the second survivor of the Battle of Kamdesh to be awarded the Medal of Honor, after former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha received it in February 2013. (Photo by Martha C. Koester)

We all have some small form of post-traumatic stress because we all have experienced something traumatic, Carter says.

“Post-traumatic stress is completely natural, and it’s instinctive,” he said. “But Soldiers, service members, Americans, in general, don’t see it that way. They see it as post-traumatic stress disorder. In other words, ‘There is something wrong with me, and if there is something wrong with me, I will be perceived as weak if I ask for help for it.’

“That’s where the main stigma is ─ that Soldiers think, ‘If I go get help for this wound that is invisible, I will be perceived as weak, and I will be ridiculed.’ So one thing we are trying to do is remove the ‘D.’ It’s not a disorder. It’s natural. It just happens, and you need to get help for it, or else it’s going to screw up your life. If we do that, if we get the leaders, if we get the subordinates, and if we get everybody’s peers and they start to agree, ‘OK, this is natural and do you want to improve your life, which we all do ─ life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness ─ [then] go talk to somebody about it.’”

With the Army’s support, Carter says he and his wife, Shannon, are using his award to do a new job ─ pushing his PTS message hard.

“We’re flying all over the place, anywhere where there is a post with wounded warriors, or even where it’s [about] post-traumatic stress specifically,” he said. “I’m trying to tell everybody, ‘Look, don’t ever use the D again, because you’re just increasing the cycle,’ and it’s making it to where people think, ‘Wow, I have a disorder. There’s something wrong with me.’ You know, there is nothing more wrong with you than a bullet wound or a stubbed toe or a sprained ankle. It needs to heal, but you have got to get it treated. That’s my new job.”

As training and leading is important to NCOs, Carter sees it as his duty to set an example for other NCOs. It’s the NCOs’ responsibility to get involved in their Soldiers’ lives, he said.

“It’s the NCO’s job to understand what is going on with his or her Soldiers or service members to where they can see a change [in behavior], because it’s not going to be dramatic like it was for me. It’s going to be something slow and smooth. Like, for example, physical training scores might start to drop or a performance level. [PTS] might show up as someone not caring about their uniform because they have pretty much stopped. They are starting to stop caring about themselves, and the only reason why they are showing up to work on time or in their right uniform is because they fear being chastised or punished.

“The Soldier won’t know. The NCO won’t know if they are experiencing it. It’s the people around them who notice it. … In the end, it’s the leadership’s responsibility: to learn how to acknowledge or learn how to notice the signs, to encourage peers to acknowledge it and notice the signs, and then to be a positive role model as far as getting help.”

Reintegration, after deployment

Post-deployment, the Army offers a host of reintegration programs and resources, which include counseling, to ease the process. The Army requires that, after deploying, Soldiers go through Soldier Readiness Processing and talk with a behavioral specialist, Carter said.

“Before, they used to ask, ‘Hey, do you need to speak to anybody today?’ and [Soldiers would say] ‘Of course not,’” Carter said. “But now, if you’re required to see somebody who says, ‘OK, are you feeling any signs of stress,’ right then something goes through their head: ‘If I say yes, will I be chastised? Will my career be affected? Will my family be affected, because my career is affected? What’s going to happen to me if I say yes?’ It is the leadership’s responsibility to remove that fear. They need to lead by example.”

According to a 2012 report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, almost 30 percent of veterans who have spent time in war zones have been diagnosed with PTS.

“I was even embarrassed when I acknowledged I had post-traumatic stress, because I thought it was an excuse,” Carter said. “I thought it was some made-up thing in your head, and [Soldiers] were just trying to get out of work or whatever. But when it hit me, I didn’t even know I had it. Everybody else around me knew. They saw the change [in me].”

Carter said he was escorted into an Army behavioral health clinic four days after the firefight at COP Keating. After the action at Keating quieted down, that’s when he said the emotions kicked in. That’s when his treatment started.

“[The Army] knew I had problems, and then they knew how deep the problems were because they started hearing what had happened [during the battle at COP Keating],” he said. “Luckily for me, I was able to push that away or compartmentalize it to where, when I was on a mission, I was on a mission. … My counseling continued from Fort Carson (Colo.) to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and I continued seeking treatment.

“I was able to actually recover to the point where I was able to redeploy,” Carter said. “Not only that, but the post-traumatic stress was reduced so much that I could actually be a functioning partner in a relationship. Then I was able to get married and have a kid, and now here I am. … If it wasn’t for all these people working with my family and my wife, I would still probably be living in my apartment in Lakewood (Colo.), spending 50 percent of my paycheck on cabs and alcohol and partying and all that stuff.”

Carter is grateful for the help he received and said he could not have made it this far without it. However, another survivor from the battle for COP Keating was not as successful, Carter said. Spc. Ed Faulkner Jr. struggled with PTS, but did not seek treatment. After returning from Afghanistan, Faulkner died from a drug overdose in September 2010.

“When [Faulkner] got out [of the Army], he didn’t get the treatment he needed,” Carter said. “That’s where I could be, and that’s one of the reasons why I am pushing the message so much. Right now, my job is to be the face of post-traumatic stress and removing the stigma.”

And to remove the stigma of post-traumatic stress, it all goes back to removing the “D” for disorder, Carter said.

“It’s about educating service members and people on what post-traumatic stress really is and making it understood how common it is,” he said. “It’s up to the individual to make the first steps in acknowledging and accepting the advice of loved ones. In the end, we are all responsible for our own choices.”

Army strong

Carter sees an Army that is transitioning with an eye toward the future, and he likes what he sees.

“The Army is getting a lot better: the whole Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention thing, the removal of hazing, a lot of the practices, the deglorification of alcohol, stuff like that,” he said. “I mean these are all completely against what the military has been in the past. We’re bringing women into combat arms now. It’s an evolution that’s moving toward the better.”

As a family man, Carter believes that the Army remains the best choice he could have made.

“Everyone who joins the [military] services has their own reasons,” he said. “Everyone who knows the Army Values actually has their own definition based on their own experiences. I hope that most service members joined for the same reason I joined ─ to protect and support your family. I believe that the men of Black Knight Troop (3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division of Fort Carson, Colo., who Carter fought with at COP Keating) were protecting and supporting their family. But at the time, the family was each other. We did everything we could do to protect and support each other in that firefight.

“I believe that the harder you are and the stronger you are with your subordinates, you will increase their chances of survival when everything becomes ‘too hard.’ In combat, everything gets too hard, but you still push through. It’s something that you don’t really have a choice ─ do you want to lay down and die, or do you want to continue to survive and push on? So when everything is too hard, when things are too scary or too traumatic, you still push on.”

 

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress

There are four types of symptoms, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ post-traumatic stress website, www.ptsd.va.gov.

  1. Reliving the event

▪You may have nightmares.

▪You may experience flashbacks and feel as if you are going through the event again.

▪You may see, hear or smell something that causes you to relive the event.

  1. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event

▪You may avoid crowds.

▪You may avoid driving.

  1. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings

▪You may not have positive or loving feelings toward others.

▪You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.

▪You may think no one can be trusted.

  1. Feeling “keyed up”

▪You may have a hard time sleeping.

▪You may have a hard time concentrating.

▪You may be startled by loud noises.

▪You might want to have your back to a wall in a crowded room.

 

To seek help, go to www.behavioralhealth.army.mil.

This Month in NCO History: Battle at COP Keating — Oct. 3, 2009

For Soldiers stationed at Combat Outpost Keating in the fall of 2009, it was immediately evident that this particular Saturday would be unlike any other.

In the predawn hours of Oct. 3, 2009, a hail of gunfire descended on the outpost, which sat in a narrow valley surrounded by the Hindu Kush mountains in the eastern Afghanistan province of Nuristan near the border with Pakistan. A force of about 400 Taliban fighters began assaulting the compound from five vantage points in the mountains.

COP Keating was defended by 50 American Soldiers, an Afghan National Army unit and its two Latvian Army trainers. The American Soldiers, assigned to B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, had been at the outpost since May of that year. Having faced enemy fire almost daily in the difficult-to-defend complex, the Army had planned its closure. The all-out attack Oct. 3 hastened those plans.

As insurgents targeted the outpost’s mortar pit with a barrage of bullets, others nearly overwhelmed every other spot within the football-field sized compound from their positions in the mountains. A simultaneous attack was carried out on nearby Observation Post Fritsche, which cut off support to COP Keating for most of the day. Taliban forces would breach COP Keating and inflict casualties within an hour of the start of the attack. They wouldn’t be completely driven back until late in the afternoon.

The American Soldiers fought fiercely, killing an estimated 150 Taliban fighters en route to retaking COP Keating. Later in the day, OP Fritsche was secured and able to provide indirect support. Overhead, two U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter bombers helped coordinate airstrikes. Eventually, COP Keating was secured.

Eight of the 50 U.S. Soldiers defending the outpost were killed in the battle, which lasted 12 hours. An additional 27 were wounded.

The daylong firefight was vaulted into the spotlight this year after two NCOs — Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter and Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha — were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the battle.

Carter, a specialist at the time of the attack, received the medal in August. He displayed bravery in traversing a wide-open expanse of the compound three times to provide ammunition to a group of Soldiers pinned down behind a humvee. Carter also exposed himself to enemy fire to rescue a fellow Soldier, Spc. Stephan Mace. Carter then retrieved a radio that belonged to a fallen Soldier that helped him and Sgt. Bradley Larson flee their pinned-down position and get Mace to safety. Mace eventually died from his wounds after being airlifted from the outpost.

Romesha was awarded the medal in February. Though wounded early in the battle, he continued fighting. Romesha was instrumental in leading a group of Soldiers who reclaimed the outpost’s ammunition depot and repelling insurgents who had breached COP Keating near its entry control point. He also directed air support and led Soldiers in laying down suppressive fire, which allowed Carter and Larson to move Mace to safety.

The honors mark the first time two living Americans were awarded the nation’s highest military honor for the same battle since the Battle of Ap Pac in South Vietnam in 1963. Nine other Soldiers were decorated with the Silver Star for their actions during the fight. COP Keating was evacuated two days later.

— Compiled by Pablo Villa

NCO, Medal of Honor recipient inducted into Pentagon Hall of Heroes

By LISA A. FERDINANDO
Army News Service

Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter, the most recent Medal of Honor recipient from Operation Enduring Freedom, was inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes last week just a day after he received the nation’s highest military honor.

Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell said Carter is a reminder to all of America that there are “modern day heroes who live and walk among us.”

In attendance at the ceremony were some of the Soldiers who fought alongside Carter during the Oct. 3, 2009, battle in Afghanistan, families of Soldiers who died in that battle, and four Medal of Honor recipients. Also in attendance were senior leaders of the U.S. military, including Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal, Ph.D., Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter.

By honoring Carter, Campbell said, the nation is also honoring those who fought alongside him that day at the remote Combat Outpost Keating. Eight Soldiers died that day in a battle that
raged for more than 12 hours.

“He elevated the needs of his team and nation above his own safety,” Campbell said of Carter’s actions that day. “His great humility, and love for his fellow Soldiers are the hallmark of a true hero.”

Carter was among 53 Soldiers at COP Keating, located deep in a valley surrounded by towering mountains in the Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. The base was attacked by an estimated 300 Taliban fighters.

The then-specialist sprinted through a “barrage of fire” to resupply ammunition and fight alongside his “desperately outnumbered comrades,” Campbell said.

Carter rescued a wounded Soldier, rendered first aid and carried him to safety. He moved through “withering fire” to check on fellow Soldiers and secure a radio that later proved critical to saving the team, Campbell said.

“He fought fiercely and inspired those around him throughout the battle that brutal day of combat,” Campbell said. “Sergeant Carter’s gallant actions were those of a man, a Soldier, who was physically and mentally strong and well-prepared for combat.”

Carter said the brave men of Bravo “Black Knight” Troop 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, “quickly felt the weight of a Taliban force seven-to-eight times our size.”

“None of us should have survived,” he said. “Though the Taliban have every tactical advantage, what they could never have is the pure untainted sense of brotherhood that the men and women of
America’s Army feel for their battle buddies.”

There is simply no stronger bond then that of a group of Soldiers facing the impossible, Carter said.

“But [we] were determined not to give up, if only to ensure the safety of others. It’s stronger than blood,” he said.

Carter remembered his fallen comrades and, choking up as he spoke, said one of the biggest regrets of his life was that he could not do more for Spc. Stephan Mace, who he brought to safety but who later died.

Carter said more than half of the Soldiers at COP Keating were wounded and “almost everyone was left with deep, invisible wounds to their hearts and minds.”

“These are the unlikely heroes of Combat Outpost Keating, brave men, brothers and Soldiers for life,” he said.

Carter, who has been public about his struggle with post-traumatic stress, has a sense of purpose that will drive him to help others who have suffered the wounds of war, Westphal said.

“It takes the same courage that you showed on that day of battle to seek ways to heal,” Westphal said. “Leadership, loyalty, character are abundant in you. The love and companionship of your family will strengthen and heal you. Your fellow Soldiers will need you and you will need them.”

Family members of the fallen team members were recognized at the event. Campbell read the names of each of those who died in the battle: Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, Sgt. Christopher Griffin, Sgt. Joshua
Hardt, Sgt. Joshua Kirk, Spc. Stephan Mace, Staff Sgt. Vernon Martin, Sgt. Michael Scusa, and Pfc. Kevin Thomson.

Also remembered at the ceremony was Pvt. Edward Faulkner, who died after returning from Afghanistan “during a difficult struggle with post-traumatic stress,” Campbell said.

The 33-year-old Carter, who had his wife, their three children and other family members at the event, was honored at the White House, Aug. 26.

He is the second Soldier to receive the nation’s highest military decoration for actions that day at COP Keating. Former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha was presented the Medal of Honor on Feb. 11, 2013.

The Pentagon Hall of Heroes is a special room in the Defense Department headquarters that has enshrined all the service members who have received the Medal of Honor.

The hall is “hallowed ground” inside the Pentagon “to memorialize our nation’s warriors who have demonstrated conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty,” Campbell said.

Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter and his wife, Shannon, hold the Medal of Honor flag after being presented with it during his induction ceremony Aug. 27 into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)
Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter and his wife, Shannon, hold the Medal of Honor flag after being presented with it during his induction ceremony Aug. 27 into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)

Staff Sgt. Ty Carter receives Medal of Honor at White House

By J.D. LEIPOLD
Army News Service

Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter became the second Soldier to receive the nation’s highest military award for extraordinary gallantry and selfless actions during the Battle of Kamdesh at Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan, on Oct. 3, 2009.

After telling the story of the ambush, which raged for 13 hours between 53 Soldiers and some 300 Taliban, and citing Carter’s complete disregard for his own safety, President Barack Obama draped  the Medal of Honor around the 33-year-old Cavalry scout’s neck in the White House East Room on Monday.

Near the Pakistan border, the Keating battle was the first since the Vietnam War in which two living service members received the Medal of Honor for their individual actions in the same battle. Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha was presented the Medal of Honor on Feb. 11, 2013.

Carter braved merciless enemy fire from rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small-arms by running the 100-meter length of the outpost twice to retrieve ammunition for his fellow Soldiers. At the same time he provided suppressive fire to keep the enemy from over-running the post. Then, with complete disregard for his own safety, and in spite of wounds, he discarded his M-4 and ran to a critically wounded Soldier, rendered life-extending first aid. He carried the Soldier to medics as Romesha and his team provided cover.

The battle would end the lives of eight Soldiers. An additional 25 others suffered wounds.

Before the citation was read, Obama recalled Carter’s words to him earlier in the day, then asked the Soldiers from his unit — the 61st Cavalry Regiment — to stand and be recognized along with the families of the eight fallen Soldiers.

“Ty says, ‘This award is not mine alone,'” the president said. “The battle that day, he will say, was ‘one team in one fight,’ and everyone ‘did what we could do to keep each other alive.’ And some of these men are with us again. And I have to repeat this because they’re among the most highly decorated units of this entire war: 37 Army Commendation Medals, 27 Purple Hearts, 18 Bronze Stars for their valor, nine Silver Stars for their gallantry.”

Obama took a few minutes to address not only Carter’s courage on the battlefield, but the courage to seek help for what he finally accepted and recognized in himself as post-traumatic stress.

“As Ty knows, part of the healing is facing the sources of the pain,” Obama said. “So now he wants to help other troops in their own recovery. And, it is absolutely critical for us to work with brave young men like Ty to put an end to any stigma that keeps more folks from seeking help.

“So let me say it as clearly as I can to any of our troops or veterans who are watching and struggling: Look at this man. Look at this Soldier. Look at this warrior. He’s as tough as they come. And, if he can find the courage and the strength, to not only seek help, but also to speak out about it, to take care of himself and to stay strong, then so can you. So can you.”

President Barack Obama places the Medal of Honor around the neck of Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter during a ceremony Monday at the White House. (Photo by Staff. Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)
President Barack Obama places the Medal of Honor around the neck of Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter during a ceremony Monday at the White House. (Photo by Staff. Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)

Medal of Honor recipient, former NCO shares his story with younger Soldiers

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Former Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha is gradually learning to live with both the acclaim and burden that comes with being a Medal of Honor recipient.

Romesha received the medal from President Barack Obama on Feb. 11 during a ceremony at the White House. He was bestowed with the honor for his actions while defending Combat Outpost Keating during a 12-hour firefight on Oct. 3, 2009, in eastern Afghanistan. The battle returned to the spotlight in August as another Soldier who took part, Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter, received the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony Aug. 26.

While the honor is new for Carter, Romesha has had some time to reflect on what the military’s highest honor means and how it’s changed his life.

“It’s changed quite a bit. I’m a little more popular now,” Romesha said during a visit to Fort Benning, Ga., in July. “There are a lot of great organizations out there that want a recipient to come out and visit with them.”

And Romesha has been happy to oblige. He visited Fort Benning as a special guest of the National 4th Infantry Division Association, which was dedicating its division monument along the Memorial Walk of Honor located on the grounds of the National Infantry Museum in Columbus. While there, Romesha said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit with younger Soldiers and share his experiences. He says talking about what happened at COP Keating and during the rest of his Army career gives young Soldiers a chance to learn from his example and eases the solemn responsibility of wearing the nation’s highest military accolade.

“It’ll always be the medal of the Soldiers,” Romesha said. “I’m just the guy that’s wearing it around my neck for the time being. It’s a heavy load at times. It comes with a lot of reflection of bad times and a lot of reflection of great times. To get out there and share it more with people and to help disperse the load over more than just me has really helped.”

Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha patrols the perimeter outside Forward Operating Base Bostic, Kunar province, Afghanistan.(Photo courtesy of Army News Service)
Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha patrols the perimeter outside Forward Operating Base Bostic, Kunar province, Afghanistan.(Photo courtesy of Army News Service)

Romesha was assigned to B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at the time of the battle. According to the Army’s official narrative, a force of about 400 enemy fighters launched an attack on COP Keating, which was defended by a force of 85 International Security Assistance Force Soldiers.

Romesha began the fight by engaging the enemy on the high ground to the west while taking cover behind a generator located in an open area in the middle of the outpost. The generator was struck with a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting wounds Romesha wouldn’t be aware of until later in the day.

After his position was reinforced, Romesha moved to the barracks on the east side of the compound where Spc. Thomas Rasmussen noticed and treated his wounds. Romesha rejoined the battle, eliminating enemies on the north face of the mountains surrounding the outpost before moving back to the open area and eliminating three enemy fighters who had breached the compound. After informing 1st Lt. Andrew L. Bundermann of the breach, Romesha assembled a five-man team consisting of Rasmussen, Spc. Mark Dulaney, Spc. Josh Dannelley, Pfc. Christopher Jones and Sgt. Matthew Miller to secure the ammunition depot. Once the depot was under control, Romesha led his team further west to reinforce the outpost’s entry control point, directing air support as he went.

The team received word that three Soldiers were still hemmed in behind a humvee at the western edge of the outpost. That trio included Carter — the new Medal of Honor recipient — Sgt. Bradley Larson and Spc. Stephan Mace, who was wounded. Romesha’s team provided heavy cover fire while Carter and Larson moved Mace away from their pinned-down location.

The fighting continued with ISAF reinforcements arriving to help eventually secure the outpost. Eight American Soldiers were killed in the fight, including Mace. In addition to the two Medal of Honor recipients, nine other Soldiers involved in the battle received the Silver Star, a testament to the meticulous team effort that was required to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

“Not every day do you see nine Silver Stars come out of one firefight,” Romesha said. “It was hard work and compassion that put us on top. I get a lot of the attention now, but if it wasn’t for them, I couldn’t be here. I will never forget the sacrifices of the eight we lost. I will never forget the sacrifices of Soldiers we’ve lost in the past in the Global War on Terrorism, the Soldiers of wars past and wars future that are willing to put their body in harm’s way so the American people can remain free and independent.”

Romesha left the Army in April 2011 for a job in the oil industry in North Dakota, where he currently lives with his wife, Tamara, and their three children — Dessi, Gwen and Colin. He says the spark for his interest in sharing his story with others came after a conversation with another Medal of Honor recipient, Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry. Petry received the medal for his actions during a daylight raid on a Taliban compound in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktia province in 2008. He remains in the Army. Romesha says they talk at least once a week.

“We were talking one day and he said, ‘You ever think you’d meet a recipient, let alone be one.’ You never wake up and think you’re going to get the Medal of Honor,” Romesha said. “As we’re sitting there talking, we came to the conclusion that there’s not a whole lot of us out there. I know as a young Soldier, it would have been great to pick the brain of a recipient to draw from their experience. So I always try and make myself available to the Soldiers — to the veterans, too, to thank them for their service — and just talk to people.”

A screenshot of a U.S. Army website that depicts a visual representation of the actions taken by Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha on Oct. 3, 2009, at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan. See the battlescape here.
A screenshot of a U.S. Army website that depicts a visual representation of the actions taken by Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha on Oct. 3, 2009, at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan. See the battlescape here.

That realization is what spurred Romesha’s visit to Fort Benning, where he spent time with basic trainees.

“That’s what’s great — to talk to them to let them know I’m just a regular guy, just a regular Soldier,” Romesha said. “I went to basic training just like they did. I didn’t go Special Forces or Delta. I can’t do a million and ten push-ups. We just did a job — the job that was expected of us — and did it the best we could. And we did it with teamwork. I emphasize the message of teamwork because everything is built on that. Yes, there are individual achievements, and you want to be the best as an individual. But rely on the strengths and the weaknesses of each other.”

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno lauded Romesha during his speech at the 4th Infantry Division monument dedication.

“It is one of the great privileges to honor Soldiers like Clint,” Odierno said. “He is representative of the tens of thousands of young veterans who have shown the American people and the world that a new greatest generation of American Soldiers has emerged during the last 12 years of war.”

Romesha said he hopes he can continue to visit Army installations throughout the country to speak about his experience and offer his guidance. He also hopes he can convey the importance of the influential duty of being a noncommissioned officer.

“Being an NCO coming up through the ranks, you get to be that ‘Joe,’ you get to be that grunt, you get to be the guy that gets all the details and does all the dirt work,” Romesha said. “Then, once you start putting on the hard stripes, you realize your role is more than just lifting heavy things and setting them back down. Your role is not only to train Soldiers, but also to mentor them, to develop, basically, their life skills because some of these guys are really young and this is their first time away from mom and dad.

“As you progress through the ranks of NCOs, you also deal with a lot more officers and senior-ranking officials in the military. So you get to see that side of the house. Being a staff sergeant is probably hands down the best rank in the military. You still get to be right there with the Soldiers, but you get to see enough on the top end to see what the big Army is doing and pick the brains of guys who are more experienced or have been around a lot longer.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, left, speaks with former Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha on July 18 at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga. Romesha, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in February, visited Fort Benning to speak to younger Soldiers and was a guest at the museum as a 4th Infantry Division monument was dedicated. (Photo courtesy of Army News Service)
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, left, speaks with former Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha on July 18 at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga. Romesha, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in February, visited Fort Benning to speak to younger Soldiers and was a guest at the museum as a 4th Infantry Division monument was dedicated. (Photo courtesy of Army News Service)