By Ms. Nancy Gould (IMCOM)December 7, 2012
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. -- Rangers from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment stood proudly at an awards ceremony in front of the Ranger Memorial at Hunter Army Airfield, Oct. 26, as Gen. Raymond Odierno, chief of staff for the United States Army, gave remarks. Afterwards, in front of crowd of military representatives, civilians and Family members, he presented the Presidential Unit Citation (Army) for Extraordinary Heroism to the battalion for their combat actions in Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 15 to October 20, 2010.
The citation stated, '…during that period, the battalion and its subordinate units displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while conducting combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It displayed extraordinary heroism, combat achievement and unwavering fidelity while executing numerous and diverse missions. It conducted time-sensitive raids and deliberate movements to contact operations in enemy-held terrain, out of reach by other friendly forces.'
Before presenting individual awards to the select Rangers, Gen. Odierno thanked the 31-member group for their bravery and courage under fire, along with their willingness to put their lives on the line while carrying out their mission.
"These are awards of valor for combat actions in difficult situations," he said to the group before presenting Sgt. Craig Warfle of Charlie Company The Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second most prestigious award of valor. "I'm here to recognize these young Soldiers for their bravery and courage under fire."
He also recognized and presented the Silver Star to three Soldiers; the Bronze Star Medals for Valor to three Soldiers; the Joint Service Commendation Medal for Valor to nine Soldiers; the Army Commendation Medal for Valor to three Soldiers and the Purple Heart to 12 Soldiers.
"This is surreal and very humbling," said Sgt. Warfle, the Distinguished Service Cross recipient who learned three weeks ago that he was to receive the prestigious award for his actions under fire while fighting to save his teammates.
He was cited in the award for his actions August 18 & 19, 2010, '…for being instrumental in the death of at least 16 Taliban fighters, the removal of two Taliban Provincial commanders and the recovery of a large cache of weapons intended for use against Coalition Forces.'
During the event, he was hit in the shoulder, along with his squad leader, but he disregarded his injury and placed himself in the line of fire to protect his injured sergeant and the Soldiers who evacuation him for medical help. Sergeant Warfle eventually applied a tourniquet to his own arm but continued to engage the enemy with fire power instead of leaving to receive medical treatment.
Sergeant Warfle said that, because of the quality of his training prior to deployment, he would likely react the same way in similar battlefield encounters.
"The training was so engrained in us from shooting paper targets that it seemed natural," he said. "At the time, the seriousness of the events were not registering to me; everything that was happening seemed like run-of-the-mill training."
Judging from the number of awards presented to the Rangers since the Global War on Terror began in 2001, their 'run-of-the-mil' training has saved lives and helped the battalion accomplish its mission.
Staff Sergeant Dominic Annecchini, a well-trained Rifle Squad leader with Alpha Company, received a Silver Star with Valor for his heroic gallantry on May 16, 2012, as well as a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the encounter. The Silver Star with Valor was the second highest award presented by Gen. Odierno to Rangers at the ceremony.
As a squad leader, Staff Sgt. Annecchini placed himself in the line of fire from multiple barricaded shooters to rescue a wounded Afghan special operations soldier. Although critically wounded with a gunshot wound to his head, he killed several barricaded enemies and prevented further casualties.
"I woke up in a German hospital and couldn't move my right side," he said. "My nose was cut and I had fragments in my right brow and frontal cortex. I'm still in physical therapy but I'm much improved. This award is humbling." Like many of the other unassuming recipients, Staff Sgt. Annecchini expressed concern that he would live up to the award.
Those gathered under the large tents and in the stands continued to watch as additional Soldiers received their awards, including Sgt. Christopher Coray, Delta Company, and Sgt. Michael Ross, Headquarters Company, also received Silver Stars with Valor for heroic service.
Those watching included the mother and father of Sgt. Warfle and his wife Rebecca, who flew in from Ohio to see her husband honored with his award.
"I wasn't surprised that he received this award; I knew he had it in him," she said, "I'm very proud. He's dreamed of being in the Army since he was a little kid. Being a Ranger is just who he is."