Today there was an addition to the illustrious roll of Medal of Honor awardees.
CPT Will Swenson was awarded the MOH by the President at the White House today 15 Oct 2013. He commanded an embedded training team advising Afghan Border Police on 8 Sep 2008 when his team came under heavy fire near the village of Ganjgal.
CPT Swenson moved forward to a Marine command element in his Ford Ranger truck. CPT Swenson repeatedly requested artillery fire which was denied because of the close proximity to the village. Eventually white phosphorous was fired 400M from his position but it wasn’t near enough to provide concealment to the engaged troops. Realizing the enemy had fire superiority and was on the verge of overrunning the forward element a painful decision was made to withdraw, reorganize and then attempt the rescue of four Marines who had been at the front of the column.
As the unit was withdrawing SFC Westbrook, CPT Swenson’s NCOIC was separated and wounded in an open field. CPT Swenson along with LT Fabyo and 1SGT Garza zig zagged through 50m of open space to get to Westbrook who had suffered a chest wound. Meanwhile the enemy had maneuvered through building to within 50m of the Americans. An insurgent wearing a helmet, fatigues and body armor motioned to Fabyo to surrender who communicated that to CPT Swenson. CPT Swenson put down his radio and stopped rendering first aid to throw a hand grenade killing three enemy.
Following CPT Swenson’s example the Afghan troops pushed the enemy away as Kiowa gunships arrived. The break allowed CPT Swenson and those with him to evacuate Westbrook and other casualties to a nearby LZ where a Medevac landed for the casualties. CPT Swenson was captured on video evacuating the casualties and kissing SFC Westbrook’s head before returning to the fight.
Swenson and Fabyo then used one of the unarmored Ford Rangers to reentered the kill zone twice to retrieve casualties. Simultaneously, Marines including Dakota Meyer were doing the same. Swenson continuously maintained contact with one of the Kiowas trying to locate the missing Marines and Corpsman.
CPT Swenson decided they needed to enter the village and organized a force to do so while calling in an USAF CSAR helicopter that located the lifeless Americans in a courtyard stripped of their body armor and clothing. The CSAR attempted to land but was driven off by RPG fire. At that point CPT Swenson lead two uparmored HMMWVs into the village supported by fires from Kiowas and an MH60. CPT Swenson and Dakota Meyer along with Afghan troops recovered the bodies under fire while the two HMMWVs provided covering fire.
CPT Swenson was highly critical of the ROE that prohibited early support and close fires. Saying, “When I’m being second-guessed by higher or somebody that’s sitting in an air-conditioned TOC, why [the] hell am I even out there in the first place?” and “Let’s sit back and play Nintendo. I am the ground commander. I want that f—er, and I am willing to accept the consequences of that f—er.” according to redacted documents reported by Army Times. Several officers were subsequently disciplined to include two letters of reprimand citing “negligent leadership” leading “directly to the loss of life”. Five Americans including SFC Westbrook died from wounds received in the battle as well as eight Afghan soldiers. CPT Swenson’s initial MOH recommendation was lost but was resubmitted resulting in today’s long due award. CPT Swenson left the service in 2011. His quoted in a recent interview as saying “Are you familiar with Pyrrhic victories?” “That’s what I specialize in.” CPT Swenson has requested to return to active duty. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/medal-honor-winner-asks-return-duty-20578266
I hope the Army approves. We need more like him…