Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for August 30, 2010 - Staff Sgt. Austin McCall

Staff Sergeant Austin McCall

Current Unit: 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
Current Position: Squad Leader and Infantryman
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Hometown: Katy, Texas
Years of Service: 5

When Staff Sgt. Austin McCall of the 75th Army Ranger Regiment first answered the call to serve five years ago, he pledged to always place the mission first and to never accept defeat. Inspired by the dedication, prestige and resourcefulness of the 75th, McCall declined a college football scholarship in favor of enlisting in the Army.

“I knew that the Rangers would challenge me physically and mentally more than any job or sport ever could,” he said, adding that he gets the same adrenaline rush from serving in uniform.

Like most Rangers, McCall is a man of action rather than words favoring getting out into the field rather than sitting around a conference table. During his most recent deployment to Afghanistan earlier this year, however, it was his quick thinking and actions working together that saved his own life and the lives of some of his men. On Jan. 5, McCall and his squad received intelligence that a suicide bomber and a group of insurgents were holed up in a house in eastern Afghanistan. As he entered the location to confront the insurgents, two grenades detonated at close range.

The explosions came just seconds apart, yet McCall used those brief moments to warn his fellow Rangers. His focus on his men and his quick reaction spared both McCall and his men further casualties.

“By turning my head and yelling ‘grenade’ to my Rangers, the shrapnel was able to go right through my face,” he said. “It may have saved my life.”

Despite serious injuries to his face and mouth from the shrapnel, and incoming gunfire, McCall continued to fire back at the insurgents. McCall put his own medical needs on hold, and focused on completing his unit’s mission.

“That’s just what we do. We go to where the fight is. We are there to engage and take care of the bad guys,” he said.

Later that day, McCall was flown to the hospital at Bagram Airfield and eventually transported to Germany, before returning to the United States to receive additional medical treatment. Less than a month later McCall returned to Afghanistan to continue the mission with the Rangers.

“Any of the Rangers would have done the same thing I did,” he said. “Within hours after the incident when I was injured, my squad was right back out there doing it all over again. When I returned to Afghanistan, they had their arms open, welcoming me back. They didn’t miss a beat.”

For his actions that day, McCall was recognized with the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, as well as the Purple Heart. He received the commendations in a ceremony in June. McCall will deploy to Afghanistan again later this year, marking his seventh deployment. Despite the harrowing circumstances of his most recent deployment, McCall looks forward to leading his fellow Rangers in combat again.

“I would have done it all over again and I look forward to doing it all over again,” said McCall. “That’s the way we are. We are all Rangers – the best gun fighters in the world.”

He is currently stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and he lives in the Tacoma, Wash. area with his wife, Gwen.

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