Fort Benning Rangers awarded for their actions in Afghanistan

benw@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 26, 2011 

  • AWARDS

    ORDER OF ST. MAURICE: Named after the leader of the Roman Theban Legion in the 3rd Century, the Order of St. Maurice is presented to those who have made a significant contribution to the Infantry.

    BRONZE STAR MEDAL WITH VALOR DEVICE: The Bronze Star Medal is a military decoration that may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. As a medal, it is awarded for merit and with the “V” for valor device if awarded for heroism. It’s the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces.

    ARMY COMMENDATION MEDAL WITH VALOR: The Commendation Medal is a mid-level U.S. military decoration presented for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service for valorous actions in direct contact with an enemy force.

    PURPLE HEART: The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. military who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. military. It is the oldest award that is still presented to members of the U.S. military.

  • RANGER AWARD LIST

    Here is a list of 26 Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment presented awards of valor Thursday.

    Order of St. Maurice
    1st Sgt. James K. Anderson
    1st Sgt. Robert J. Ciaccio
    1st Sgt. Christopher N. Hutchins
    1st Sgt. Brian J. Strait

    Bronze Star with Valor
    Staff Sgt. Nathan A. Davidson
    Staff Sgt. Joshua Estrella
    Sgt. Richard Cessna
    Sgt. Robert j. Troemel (with Purple Heart)

    Army Commendation Medal with Valor
    1st Sgt. Christopher N. Hutchins
    1st Sgt. Robert R. Phipps II
    Staff Sgt. Kyle C. Hageman
    Staff Sgt. John H. McElroy
    Staff Sgt. James L. Wilbur
    Sgt. Thomas E. Amiss
    Sgt. Shaun M. Hardin
    Sgt. Brady J. Hojek
    Sgt. Nathan T. Keith (two awards)
    Sgt. Ryan Picou
    Cpl. Michael R. Browne
    Spc. Jonathan F. Velando
    Pvt. 1st Class Richard J. Benavidez
    Pvt. 1st Class Gabriel J. Demaggio
    Pvt. 1st Class Jason M. Droddy

    Purple Heart
    Staff Sgt. Joseh W. Edwards
    Spc. Nicholas J. Murphy
    Pvt. 1st Class Collin C. Bull

During a U.S. Army Ranger raid in Afghanistan, an enemy soldier pushed away Sgt. Robert J. Troemel’s rifle and tried to stab him in the throat. Troemel blocked the knife, which went through his hand, then drew his own knife, blocked more thrusts and killed the enemy attacker by stabbing him in the throat.

Troemel and 25 other members of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning were recognized Thursday for their actions in Afghanistan between Dec. 15 and July 9. Troemel was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor and the Purple Heart.

“That is what we train for,” said Troemel, 26, after the ceremony at the 3rd Ranger Battalion Memorial. Troemel, who hails from Lansdale, Pa., has been deployed four times -- once to Iraq and three times to Afghanistan -- in the last four years.

“It was a great deployment,” he said. “We only had a couple of people to get injured.”

Staff Sgt. Richard J. Cessna was recognized for saving other Rangers during a night helicopter raid on a location known as a safe haven for enemy fighters. While under fire, Cessna pursued a fighter to a building where he fired an M67 fragmentation grenade then entered the building and halted any threat from the soldiers inside.

“You basically got a helicopter assault and we were moving up to our target and I saw somebody moving from a building so I interdicted them and started taking shots,” Cessna said. “I chased them down and located the building he was in.”

Cessna, 23, of Warren, Mich., said nobody really wants to get an award for actions he described as everyday life for Rangers.

“It is a team effort,” Cessna said.

Lt. Col. Marcus Evans said the awards event was a chance to recognize the Rangers on their most recent deployment. “It is a time to pause and it’s a time to remember what they have done,” he said.

The commander pointed to the actions of Pvt. 1st Class Gabriel J. Demaggio as selfless service displayed by Rangers.

Awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor, Demaggio returned early from his third deployment not to take a break but to enter Ranger School.

“This is an individual that deployed four plus months,” the commander said. “He is obviously in close contact with the enemy as recognized by the Valor award. He comes back only to pack his stuff and go out to Ranger School and graduate two weeks ago.”

Evans said all Rangers are quiet professionals and they wouldn’t want recognition if it weren’t done in a ceremony like the one at the battalion.

“I think the majority of them just want to do their jobs on a daily basis and they do it so well,” he said. “They are really the finest we have to offer. It’s an honor and privilege to be associated with them.”

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