HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga., - About 80 Rangers from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment stood quietly in formation in the Memorial Courtyard at Hunter Army Airfield at an afternoon ceremony Jan. 21 and received medals for their combat actions in Afghanistan.
The awards were given for their service from May 16 to Dec. 17, 2010, when they conducted over 550 classified operations, killing hundreds and capturing over 1400 enemy personnel with 229 in that group considered "high value" individuals by the command. Also during that period, the battalion sustained 42 casualties, including seven Rangers, who were killed in action.
The seven fallen compatriots were honored earlier Jan. 21 at a separate ceremony at the same site. Colonel Michael Foster, the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment commander, addressed those who grieved. "These Rangers we honor today impressed us, they inspired us and they continue to inspire us today."
Major Jason Davis, the battalion personnel officer and award ceremony narrator praised the warriors on his commander's behalf. "They loaded up and moved out into the night without fear, or hope of recognition to do their job."
Leaders at the award ceremony were eager to give Rangers the recognition they deserved. The command group presenting the awards included Brig. Gen. Raymond "Tony" Thomas, deputy commanding general, Joint Special Operations Command; Col. Michael Kurilla, commander, 75th Ranger Regiment; Col. Michael Foster, commander, 1st Bn., 75th Rangers; and Command Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Bielich, Command Sergeant Major, 1st Bn., 75th Rangers.
The awards included Bronze Star Medals, Army Commendation Medals with Valor, Purple Hearts and a Silver Star, awarded posthumously.
The first individual to receive recognition was Staff Sgt. Corey Remsburg, who was gravely injured Oct. 1, 2009 in the Zharay Disrict of Afghanistan but was unable to participate in the last ceremony due to the extent of his injuries. "From that day, he has fought to recover," said Maj. Davis. "He stands with fellow Rangers today to receive the Purple Heart for wounds incurred in combat and the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service."
The second individual recognized in the Ranger formation was Staff Sgt. Brian Mast, a Fort Stewart Explosive Ordinance Disposal technician who was part of the battalion during its most recent rotation. Staff Sergeant Mast was seriously injured as he cleared a lane for Rangers during an attack in the Arghandab District of Kandahar. He stood from his wheelchair as he accepted the award from Col. Foster as an honorary member of the battalion.
"There are times in combat when others walk in front of us and assume even greater danger and risks on our behalf," said Maj. Davis. "After saving numerous Rangers from injury or worse, Sgt. Mast was seriously wounded while performing his duties, clearing a lane for Rangers. He has our undying gratitude and respect for his courage and selfless service."
One Purple Heart recipient in the battalion, Capt. Andrew Fisher, a senior physician assistant, was struck by enemy fire as he climbed a roof to attend to two wounded Rangers. Captain Fisher helped the other Rangers before he took care of getting his own wound examined, although he experienced immediate pain. "I was hit from behind but ignored it," he said. "I was still able to function so I knew that my wound wasn't critical and it could wait until another medic could treat me." Captain Fisher was also awarded the Bronze Star with Valor during the Friday afternoon ceremony.
The ceremony closed by honoring the Ranger wives and with Rangers reciting the Ranger Creed. During their final words, the retired Rangers who stood among the crowd, joined the chant in a single loud voice that echoed throughout the memorial site, "Rangers Lead The Way."