The Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning is proud to celebrate the White House’s announcement that Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.
As a platoon sergeant with A Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, he was stationed on Kelley Hill with the famed Audie Murphy Battalion when he deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 3.
Cashe died more than 15 years ago in November 2005 at Brooke Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, from wounds suffered when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device during a route clearing mission Oct. 17, 2005, near Forward Operating Base Mackenzie, Iraq.
The explosion ignited the Bradley’s fuel cell and severed the rear ramp cable. Cashe, in the gunner’s seat, managed to get out and pulled the driver who was on fire from the burning vehicle. With the Bradley engulfed in flames and his body drenched in fuel, Cashe reached through the back hatch to pull his Soldiers from the vehicle. Despite being on fire, he helped remove all six of his Soldiers and the body of the translator who was killed by the IED.
He received a Silver Star posthumously for his actions. His former battalion commander, now Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, the Army’s 49th Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, and former MCoE commanding general, called Cashe a hero and has been working to get the Silver Star upgraded to a Medal of Honor for years.
Col. Jimmy Hathaway, the former MCoE operations officer, was Cashe’s company commander in 2005. During a 2014 interview he remembered the battle.
"Again and again, he continues to go back, soaked in fuel, on fire, with no regard for his own safety to get everybody out,” Hathaway recalled.
After the scene had been cleared, Cashe insisted on remaining behind until all of his Soldiers had been evacuated.
"As we were fighting the fight and clearing the scene, he wouldn't leave," Hathaway said. "He wanted to make sure all of his guys were out first even though he was burned over most of his body. He was still more concerned about his guys getting out than he was."
Cashe was known for his selfless service, a dedicated Soldier who embodied “Be, Know, Do,” said retired 1st Sgt. Louis Francis, who first met Cashe in the battalion motor pool where Francis was the senior maintenance supervisor.
He stood out, Francis said, because he cared about his equipment and he made sure his Soldiers knew how to maintain and take care of the equipment.
“He was a hero, he led from the front … ‘follow what I do, I will teach you everything I know. Then if something happens, you can replace me because you will know what to do,’” Francis described Cashe.
“Knowing he went back into the Bradley to pull his people out doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “It was the type of person, NCO he was – put others before himself. And that’s what you want.”
Before being assigned to Kelley Hill, Cashe was a drill sergeant with 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment, on Sand Hill. On the fallenheroesmemorial.com page, Sgt. Cory Edwards wrote, “At the time we thought you (were) a hardass (and) unreasonably tough. After joining my unit, I found that I had it rough in basic so I could succeed in the Army. I will never forget the lessons in discipline and pursuit of (perfection.)”
Another one of his Soldiers, Zach Polachek, wrote, “You were always the drill instructor I told myself I would never forget. I found out that some of my closest friends and brothers served with you in Germany and in 1-15. Even though I never served with you after I got done with basic and AIT, I never forgot you and I do remember running into you as you transferred back to Benning as I was leaving the service, ironically on my final day of clearing and your first day back. I remember shaking your hand and thanking you for everything you taught me and you said to me, ‘I just did what I was supposed to do, it was up to you to learn it.’ I'll never forget that or you.”
In 2006, Fort Benning dedicated an urban training facility on Sand Hill in honor of Cashe, Cashetown. At the ceremony, then Lt. Col. Gary Brito, Cashe’s battalion commander, described Cashe as “a dedicated NCO who wouldn’t rest until his troops were taken care of, so it’s appropriate to dedicate a MOUT site to him,” The Bayonet reported.
"He had a heart when it came to people," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Dennison who served with Cashe in Iraq.
"His guys knew they could go to him if they needed something. I wasn't surprised when I heard that he pulled the other guys out. I wouldn't have expected anything less from him," said Francis, who was the first sergeant of the battalion’s Forward Support Company at the time. “That’s a day in October you’ll always remember.”
“And I will never forget. ...It rips your heart out. You can’t replace that in the ranks. Brother, well done. Job well done. To know that he got out of the vehicle after the explosion, uninjured and that he selflessly went back into that vehicle to pull all of his men out, while the vehicle is on fire. Risking his life each chance that he goes back in there, and even though his leadership is telling him he needs to get to the medevac to get taken care of, and he’s on fire. And kept going back to pull his men out. Selfless service. … I will always love him for that. If I could see him now, I would just hug him,” said Francis. “You are the noncommissioned officer each one of us should strive to be.”
Three of the Soldiers Cashe rescued from the Bradley preceded him in death at the burn center. They were Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander Jr. from Clanton, Alabama, Sgt. Michael "Doc" Robertson from Houston, and Spc. Darren Howe from Beatrice, Nebraska. Spc. Raymond Salerno III initially survived his wounds, but died of heart failure eight months later at BAMC when he returned for follow-on care.