Special Forces Chief Model of Resilience

By Staff Sgt. Christopher HarperNovember 9, 2017

Special Forces Chief Model of Resilience
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott Howell, Vice Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (left) and Chief Warrant Officer Four Shane Gandy, 2017 Peter Ortiz- OSS Award recipient and operations officer for Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Grou... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Special Forces Chief Model of Resilience
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chief Warrant Officer Four Shane Gandy, the 2017 Peter J. Ortiz- OSS Award recipient, showing the partial amputation and recovery of his right hand at his wedding in 2011. The award, named for the most decorated World War II Marine Corps Col. Peter O... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Very few people have the courage and resilience to both serve and sacrifice for their country. Fewer still endure catastrophic injury only to re-raise their hand and commit to continued service.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shane Gandy, the company operations officer for Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) is one of those few. While serving in Afghanistan in 2010 Gandy survived an ambush involving an improvised explosive device made from more than 150 pounds of homemade explosive, a common tactic used by Taliban forces at the time. Among Gandy's injuries were the partial amputation of his right hand and the shattering of both of his legs.

"I was fortunate in my situation, we had our battalion surgeon, Shawn Alderman, on this patrol and none of my guys were killed," Gandy said. "I took the brunt of the IED and of the injuries. I'll take that every day and twice on Sunday."

Suffice to say he viewed his survival not as a signal that his service to his country had been completed, but rather as an opportunity to continue to fight.

"My goal was to finally be put in a category where they were actually fixing me; putting things back together enough that I would get the most of what remained" Gandy said. "This was a dark time for me as the final outcome for my injuries and recovery always seemed to be in flux and I just wanted to get back to anything familiar. I just wanted to get back to what I knew."

Gandy chose to endure years of painful surgeries and rehabilitation with one goal in mind - to return to the force.

Initially, while in the hospital "small victories" seemed to carry the day.

"Almost a year post injury I had actually made the decision to have my left leg amputated," he explained. "At this point I had my leg but it had very little functionality. While at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, I had an orthopedic corrective surgery and was fitted for an ExoSym orthotic device."

For the first time in over a year he was able to walk without pain and without a limp. That's when Gandy began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Now my goal of being back in my unit continuing to contribute was actually a reality," Gandy said.

Never knowing if he'd actually ever be able or capable to return, Gandy used his recovery time to both lead and mentor other injured service members as well as service providers.

"I made several friends along the way, men and women who had been wounded by war" he said. "When I was first injured I felt isolated and in a 'fish-bowl' stuck within a world of strangers looking in at me. I made it a point while at Walter Reed and while at Brook Army Medical Center to meet the newly injured special operations soldiers as soon as I could when they arrived. I offered myself up as a resource, a sounding board, or just someone to vent to. Shared experience,

suffering, and hardship are a powerful unifier."

In addition to serving as a patient advocate for wounded Soldiers, he provided feedback to the 1st SFG (A) Tactical Human Optimization, Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning (THOR3) team staff and Madigan Army Medical Center on the most effective methods for caring for combat injured Soldiers.

"Some of the best medicine I received was being back in my unit amongst my brothers" Gandy said. "The THOR3 program is an amazing program, coupling a facility, strength conditioning coaches, and physical therapist all under the same roof."

"As a limb salvage patient, Shane knew it would be a long recovery and that amputation would have to be considered if the salvage procedures failed," said Dr. Anja Rapp, THOR3 physical therapist. "Despite the frequent setbacks, Shane was always motivated to succeed. He was not only an inspiration to the therapy and coaching staff, but he was able to help numerous patients struggling with similar issues, and continues to do so today. As a physical therapist for the Army, I see many trauma patients struggle with identity issues, depression and anger after a major trauma and prolonged period of care but CW4 Gandy never allowed himself to succumb to these issues."

It was being around his like-minded, unforgiving, cut zero slack, no excuse accepted teammates in the Special Forces community that finally made Gandy feel like he was home. He found himself in a unique position, wedged firmly between the THOR3 staff and elite Green Berets he called his teammates.

"I became the intersection of these two disciplines" Gandy said. "The strength coaches, physical therapist, and I would get together and modify my workouts to fit my needs and my degraded abilities. They are every bit as responsible for my recovery as the doctors who put me back together. This facility is where the magic happened."

While still recovering from his injuries, Gandy also served a key role as an instructor at the Achilles Dagger Course and Special Forces Sniper Course ensuring his wealth of knowledge could be passed on to the next generation of Green Berets.

He did not stop there.

Once medically cleared, Gandy returned to Afghanistan in 2013-2014 where his expertise was utilized as a member of Special Operations Task Force - West, Afghanistan (SOTF-W) as the Targeting and Affects Cell leader. Throughout the course of his career, Gandy has deployed in support of operations across Afghanistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Korea, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Malaysia.

Gandy's contributions over his 23 year career was not lost on the Special Forces community in which he served.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott Howell, Vice Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, presented Gandy the 2017 Peter J. Ortiz- OSS Award at the William J. Donovan Award Dinner in Washington D.C. on Oct. 21, 2017. The award, named for the most decorated World War II Marine Corps Col. Peter Ortiz, is presented annually by the Office of Strategic Services Society, a group dedicated to preserving and honoring the legacy of the WWII organization recognized as the predecessor to the Special Forces.

"This is clearly a man, like Col. Ortiz, who likes to be in the thick of things and continues to work tirelessly in defense of our great nation," said Howell of Gandy.

Gandy humbly accepted the prestigious award on behalf of the quiet professionals he's served with throughout his career and gave credit to the hidden brothers and sisters of Special Operations.

"Not a day's gone by that when I don my Green Beret, I somehow feel unworthy of the legacy entrusted to me from these giants who came before," Gandy said.

Humility appears to be among professionalism, competence, resilience, and patriotism in defining Gandy.

"Since 2004, it's been an honor to have known and worked with CW4 Shane Gandy," said Lt. Col. Matthew Gomlak, commander of 2nd Battalion, 1st SFG (A). "He is a humble man, a dedicated and competent professional, and a fierce fighter. Shane has always been there for his fellow Soldiers, whether in combat or while navigating the military health care system. He inspires us all to be better Soldiers and Green Berets."

Gandy credits U.S. Special Operation Command's policy of retaining injured troops and recognizes their commitment to their own values when they say, "Troops are more important than hardware."