FORT SILL, Okla.-- A ceremony dedicating a building in honor of a fallen Soldier might seem like a very solemn and sad occasion. And, while there were elements of sadness during the dedication of the Joint Fires Observer classroom building here in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Domeij, there was also a strong current of celebration and remembrance to honor his remarkable life.
Domeij served with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He was a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) and one of the first graduates of the two-week Joint Fires Observer (JFO) course offered at Fort Sill. He completed the JFO course in October 2005. Domeij was killed in action Oct. 22, 2011 during combat operations in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, when the assault force he was with triggered a roadside improvised explosive device.
He was awarded a Purple Heart, posthumously, and three Bronze Stars, the third also awarded posthumously. He was on his 14th combat deployment in support of the Global War on Terror.
Col. John Smith, director, Joint and Combined Integration Directorate of the Fires Center of Excellence here welcomed family and friends, as well as Domeij's former instructors, commanders and fellow Rangers who attended the dedication ceremony Dec. 17. Family members present were Sarah Domeij, Sgt. Domeij's wife, and their two daughters, Mikajsa and Aaliyah. Also present were Scoti Domeij, Kris Domeij's mother and Kyle Domeij, his brother, as well as other members of Sgt. Domeij's family. More than 60 members of the 75th Ranger Regiment also attended the ceremony to honor Domeij and show support for his family.
"On this solemn occasion, how appropriate it is to dedicate such a facility to the selfless service and dedication of someone like Sergeant First Class Kristoffer Domeij, one who certainly embodied a true warfighter ethos," said Smith. "Kris Domeij had such an incredible reputation for excellence in Fires. He was just a real, true expert at his craft, but also one of those guys who has a human touch. He inspired all of these Rangers you see here today to strive for the same standards he set."
"As JFOs and JTACs, they put an incredible amount of time in being as precise and accurate as possible. Kris would go to great lengths to make sure we did the right things. He was on the cutting edge and helped invent tactics, techniques and procedures to help mitigate collateral damage. It's how we reduce suffering and unnecessary damages, and Kris Domeij was absolutely one of the best," Smith added.
"I did the same job he did joint terminal attack controller and he taught me everything I know about doing my job," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Cooke, 2/75th Ranger Regiment. "When I was a young private coming to 2nd Ranger Battalion, he was the guy who taught me everything; from how to shoot artillery and mortars, all the way up to attack aviation and then way up to a 9-Line off of a fixed-wing aircraft. So he taught me everything.
"That's what he did his entire career saving people's lives," Cooke added. "But the people he was saving were standing right next to him. They would take a bullet for him and he's going to blow the bad dudes up, so they didn't have to take that bullet."
Lt. Col. Greg Anderson, commander of Domeij's unit, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to witness the dedication of Domeij Hall as the Army's Joint Fires Observer training center.
"This center's mission and expertise will undoubtedly continue to play a significant role in the success of our joint forces for years to come. It is entirely appropriate that this significant training center at Fort Sill be named in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Domeij. Fort Sill is where Sgt. Domeij began is distinguished career as a young 13 Fox, a forward observer," Anderson said. "It was here he learned the basics of Fires employment, planning and integration, and expanded these skills to became a pioneer in the development and execution of joint Fires doctrine and tactics."
Lt. Col. William Peterson, now the Command Inspector General, Montana Army National Guard, was the JFO program manager at Fort Sill when Domeij came through.
"Kris was a close personal friend of mine. It was that important to me to come here and recognize my friend. I helped initiate naming this building after him, and I wanted to be a part of this ceremony," Peterson said. "Kris came in as a sergeant, and he was in one of the first classes of students from outside Fort Sill. The Ranger regiment was really interested in the program, and they provided handpicked, vetted Soldiers to come to the course. He characterized all of the attributes that we were looking for in the joint fires observer candidates what we wanted those 13 Foxes to be as JFOs and JTACs. That is why this building is so important."
Scoti Domeij, Kris's mother, spoke to those in attendance about the difficulties of dealing with the loss of a son in combat.
"I would like to quote a Gold Star mom I met this week, who said, 'America forgets too quickly.' I feel that every son or daughter who has fought for our freedom deserves to be remembered. And for me, this building and ceremony is a tangible reminder, and I'm very grateful for it," she said.
Scoti Domeij also expressed the family's appreciation to the Rangers from Kris's regiment who came to be part of the dedication ceremony.
"He loved being a Ranger. He wanted to do Special Forces, because his best friend's father had been a Green Beret, and he spent a lot of time with his friend and his father. He went from basic training, to airborne, to Rangers," she said.
Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, 2/75th Ranger Regiment and a Medal of Honor recipient, spoke about his friend Kris Domeij and how he considered him a true hero.
"I was in the Ranger unit with Kris and I'm honored to be here. I thanked his family for letting me be a part of this ceremony. I hope they feel comfort knowing they will always be part of the Ranger family," Petry said. "He was one of those guys who, when we had a hard time with our younger Rangers, he said a few words that made me realize we could get through it. He definitely set the example for a lot of guys to follow. Kris was a good friend and a great Ranger."
Domeij Hall will be the training facility for thousands of future JFO students, who will learn skills in close-air support, close-combat aerial attack, field artillery, naval surface gunfire and many more joint missions and tasks, according to Lt. Col. Michael Todd, chief of the JFO course. He added students from all branches of the United States military, as well as partner nations worldwide would associate joint fires instruction with name Domeij.
"We often hear students say that the joint fires observer training here at Fort Sill was the best they received in their military service. We are proud to say that, from now on, that excellent training will be under the name Domeij Hall," Todd said.