Three members of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) 4th Brigade Combat Team (Currahees) were honored Monday for bravery under fire in Afghanistan last June. Their citations were pinned on them by Col. Valery C. Keaveny Jr., the commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 506th Infantry Regiment.
Staff Sgt. William D. Stuckey, of New Holland, Ohio; Sgt. Shaun O. Chandler, of Tallulah, La.; and Spc. Michael A. Garcia, of Seminole City, Texas, each received the Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device in a ceremony on post.
On June 29, 2011, in Nangarhar province in east central Afghanistan, the three soldiers were working to establish a vehicle patrol base for Operation Three Villages in response to Taliban movement into Area of Operations Comanche, according to an Army news release. They reportedly came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades and guns from the east, northwest and southeast.
Chandler positioned two trucks to cover his squad’s maneuver into the enemy’s position, the release states. At that time, one of the trucks’ MK-19 weapons was having malfunctions, and the gunner was having difficulties in repairing the malfunctions. Chandler saw this and went to the gunner’s position and repaired the weapon, according to the release.
Chandler then heard a fellow sergeant, a squad leader, calling for help over the radio, as he was pinned down under heavy fire. Chandler went to the sergeant’s position and saw him lying in a ditch with RPGs exploding within a few yards of his position, the release states.
Chandler tried to get to the sergeant by going around the corner of a fortress wall, but he stated that it was instantly fired upon by the enemy. Instead, the release states Chandler took advantage of the enemy shooting in another direction to sprint across 55 yards to the nearest covered position. He then opened fire, reportedly single-handedly suppressing the enemy long enough for the sergeant to get up and move out of harm’s way.
During the firefight, Stuckey positioned his squad’s vehicles in order to suppress the enemy. He reportedly saw three groups of insurgents, all armed with RPGs. Stuckey identified the locations of the insurgents, gave his gunner the order to fire and eliminated all three groups, the report states.
He then heard of a number of wounded soldiers about 220 yards from his position. He guided his squad under heavy fire to the area. Securing the spot, Stuckey reportedly moved the wounded soldiers to the safety of a more secure position near a school.
Garcia, a medic, treated the soldiers under enemy fire, the release states. Pinned down himself under heavy enemy fire, he reportedly returned fire to help.
He was soon notified of other injuries in the area. He went to the soldiers under heavy fire and assisted them to a safety point 110 yards away, the release states.
“It was a very long day,” Chandler said with a laugh following the ceremony. Stuckey said the entire action took about seven hours.
“The hardest thing was not having ammo right there,” Stuckey said. “You know, they ambushed us from the east and west sides, and the element from the south kept getting closer and closer. They had us outnumbered, but I … think it was our show of force and we stood our ground long enough to where they backed off.”
“I feel proud of what was accomplished, but at the same time, it’s part of my job,” Garcia said. “There are a lot of other people who deserve this award.”
All three said there was no thought before moving into action.
“As soon as we got the green light that we were going to engage these guys, my platoon sergeant was, like instantly: ‘You guys know what to do,’” Stuckey said.
“You know how to do it,” Chandler said. “You get shot at, you shoot back — plain and simple.”
“I had my shotgun, so he was covering me and I was covering him,” Garcia said. “We just kept going back and forth. Once we got to (the other soldiers), they led us all the way back to where we had to go.”
DAVID SNOW is the editor of The Eagle Post. Reach David at 270-887-3295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.