CPT Will Swenson Awarded MOH

Posted on: October 15th, 2013 by Will Rodriguez 15 Comments
Captain William Swenson. Photograph by Jonathan S. Landay/MCT

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…

Added 16 Oct:  Just came across this graphic representation that really does an awesome job of encapsulating what CPT Swenson did and here is the best narrative describing his actions.

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • engelbrad

    Great write up! Way more than we got from MSM. Outstanding CPT Swenson and hope you return to active duty! Godspeed!

  • LauraKinCA

    A story that needs to be told… both about his heroism deserving of the Medal of Honor, as well as the fight to make sure he received it. I certainly hope they do let him back in to serve if that is his wish.

  • majrod

     I noticed that also (lack of discussion of what CPT Swenson actually did) which is why I wrote the article.
    To the MSM the story is about the fiasco about support the award being lost which are bot very valid issues but the courage and selflessness is what should be showcased on his day.

  • Txazz

    Thanks for giving this valiant warrior more exposure and the real story behind his actions.  To read and re-read his story gives me goosebumps.  How proud I was to watch him receive his MOH.

  • ArcticWarrior

    majrod engelbrad The Daily Mail had his MoH story as its cover story, with the wounded Ranger story side right next to it. ( granted this was over night, dark thirty when I checked) The US press coverage of it was woefully inadequate and seemed angled on the support slant instead of the actions of some dudes with some very brassy balls. Glad you highlighted the CPTs story. BTW congrats and great start to the blog……

  • clluelo

    I look forward to more Will. Capt Swenson is truly a hero, thank you for the true story

  • KineticFury

    Awesome. A stellar display of leadership. Seventy years from now kids will be reading about him and his story.

  • KineticFury  How can you not like a guy that throws a frag when asked to surrender.
    A man of few words.

  • engelbrad

    majrod KineticFury Make sure he’s in on the next discussion of ROE with the DOD!!!

  • engelbrad majrod KineticFury Would absolutely LOVE to even talk with the man but he’s known to be pretty tight lipped?  Considering he’s asked to be back on active duty that complicates a candid discussion further.

  • GodblessUSSF

    KineticFury Hope so Kinetic. They will surely need it and he definitely deserves it.

  • 5000area375

    This man is an example that command should try to emulate. I do not think he will be fairly treated when he is re commissioned. I hope I am wrong but I believe his honesty made enemies of some of his superior officers. Who are superior in rank but inferior in every other standard. Not all but I fear more than there should be. Great work shinning the light.

  • BSchroe

    Captain Swenson richly deserved the Medal of Honor.  I hope he gets back in the Army .

  • Army probe states Gen Petraeus recommended a downgrade of CPT Swenson’s MOH.  Probe holds no one responsible for losing award recommendation.


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