By Rob Schuette, Fort McCoy Public Affairs OfficeOctober 8, 2009
Training as you fight and taking positive actions were keys for a Silver Star recipient who was well received by a Fort McCoy, Wis., audience during a Sept. 25 Year of the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) event.
Sgt. Gregory S. Ruske, only the fifth U.S. Army Reserve Soldier to receive the Silver Star for heroic actions in Afghanistan or Iraq, said his actions were a great credit to his training and the NCOs who served as his trainers and mentors.
Ruske earned the Silver Star for his actions April 21, 2008 in Afghanistan's Kapisa province, a remote area not accessible by vehicles.
Taliban operatives ambushed his unit while they were on patrol and unleashed a heavy gunfire and grenade assault. Ruske immediately responded, suppressing the enemy with accurate rifle and grenade fire.
Because he's only been an NCO for a year, Ruske said he believed it was more appropriate for him to talk about how his life experiences and the NCOs he worked under had helped shape his military career.
Ruske said he was raised by a single mother, enlisted in the Army in the infantry field in 1998 and served three years on active duty before being discharged in 2001.
"I spent a lot of time in the field and wasn't a big fan of it," Ruske said. "That was to be expected. I was an 18-year-old and thought I knew everything there was to know."
"I kept asking, 'Why do we keep going to the field, training and doing the same thing over and over and over. It's getting a little monotonous and redundant,'" he said.
The most tangible benefit he could see was it allowed him to max out his physical training score in push-ups, Ruske said.
After he left active duty, Ruske attended college and received his degree. He went on to work as a corrections officer and joined the Army Reserve.
He was assigned to the 5025th Garrison Support Unit, an Army Reserve unit in Colorado Springs, Colo., before he volunteered to serve a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, he served with 3rd Platoon, A Company, Task Force Gladiator, Combined Task Force 101.
"To make a long story short, when all that kicked off in Afghanistan - that redundant training - the stuff that I thought has no place, no purpose, doing it many times (saved me)," he said. "But people started to freeze when the bullets started flying and shooting was exploding everywhere. It's because of all that training; it's because of all those NCOs that looked after me and taught me everything they knew (throughout my military career), that I managed to react just like that."
Ruske said the bottom line of the event was that everything he learned from life's lessons - including the support of his mother - led him to stand up for his country.
"Everybody (on our side) went home that day," Ruske said. "Despite everything that went wrong, any firefight you can walk away from with your guys, you can consider that a good day."
After his service in Afghanistan, the 5025th was deactivated. Ruske was assigned to the 96th Regional Readiness Command until he could transfer to the 104th Division in Aurora, Colo.
Fort McCoy Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Com-mand Sgt. Maj. William T. Bissonette Jr., honored Ruske with a command sergeant major coin and a garrison commander's coin.
Bissonette noted the Wisconsin ChalleNGe Acad-emy cadets who were in attendance and told them that Ruske was a great example to help them understand what it takes to be a responsible citizen and, in this case, a responsible Soldier.
Ruske also helps young people who have gotten in trouble through his role as a corrections officer, Bissonette said.
"He was, in fact, a hero (that day). But the reason he was a hero is because he has the character to be a hero," Bissonette said. "And for you ChalleNGe Academy cadets, I want you to understand that character is the thing that is going to carry you through life."
Keith Krueger, commandant for cadets for the Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy at Fort McCoy, said the cadets were welcome to attend the event because it allowed them to gain an understanding of the importance of NCO duties and responsibilities.
"The cadets are at the stage in their life where they want to touch, feel, see, and experience things for themselves," Krueger said. "This event allowed them to hear what NCOs have to do to be successful and how that can carry over to their life. Sergeant Ruske was a role model for the cadets."
Cadet Justine Klomberg said it was cool to hear Ruske talk about his experience over there and what he did.
"He wasn't arrogant," Klomberg said. "He didn't consider himself a hero. He just did his job.'
"His courage is inspiring," she added. "It will help me do things in my life when I don't think they are doable."
Cadet Dillon Anderson said Ruske's story showed anyone in the military, including NCOs, can get Silver Stars.
"He did have a lot of courage, and I will use his example to make myself more willing to participate," Anderson said. "He was well-prepared to do things and didn't give up when things got tough."