Saturday, March 20, 2010
Operation Enduring Freedom began less than a month after the 9/11 attacks on America. Designed to wrestle control of Afghanistan from the Islamofascist Taliban regime and install true democratic reform, the military operation has been highly successful in it's mission to bring and maintain some sense of stability to what has historically been one of the most difficult to manage areas of the world.
It was to this effort to help stem the rising tide of Islamic terror that 30-year old U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti of Massachusetts deployed in June of 2006. A career soldier, Monti loved his country and had joined the army at age 17. His Afghanistan deployment would find him serving as a forward observer with the Army's 10th Mountain Division.
Upon his arrival, his 71st Cavalry Regiment, a recon team, was preparing for what was known as 'Operation Gowerdesh Thrust' in the Gremen Valley near the Pakistan border. This are had been used for troop movements and as a staging area by enemy combatants, and so it was deemed important to secure.
While the main squadron would move through to clear the Valley, Monti was assigned as a part of their supporting recon mission. His group of scouts and snipers would move along a ridge line above the Valley and provide real-time intelligence as to the enemy's troop and equipment movements during the operation.
After spending the night of June 20th into the 21st alternating rest with recon assignments, Jared Monti began to prepare for his role as an assistant leader of the 16-man recon patrol that would move through these rugged mountains of Nurestan province in Northern Afghanistan. What the young military veteran had no way of knowing was that it would be his final wakeup call.
It turned out that Monti's group had it's original assignment length extended by a few days, and they were already running low on water and food. A decision was made to organize a 'drop' of these critical supplies. Monti and another Staff Sergeant led a patrol to pickup the supply drop and return it to their main camp.
During their return, one of the observers for the team left back at camp had believed that he observed an enemy scout pickup Monti's patrol through binoculars, and thus believed that their position was no longer secure. As dusk began to fall on Monti's return, discussions began to ensue as to whether to move their position.
At approximately 6:45pm local time, Monti's group suddenly came under heavy fire from a wooded area to their rear. A group of 50 enemy combatants fired on them with RPG's, machine guns and small arms and began to move towards them. The ferocity of the enemy fire knocked weapons from the men's hands and one, Private Brian Bradbury, was wounded.
It was here that Monti began his date with heroic destiny. He organized a quick response and defense, and also called in for air and artillery support. These actions alone kept his small group from being completely overrun early on in the attack.
Then, disregarding his own safety, Monti moved to rescue the fallen Bradbury. On his first attempt he was driven back by heavy enemy fire. Unfazed, Monti waited it out and made another move but was again driven back by heavy enemy fire. Finally, Monti made a 3rd attempt to rush to Bradbury's aid. This time an RPG exploded nearby, mortally wounding Monti and finally ending his heroic attempts to rescue his brother soldier.
As irony would have it, thanks to Monti's calls a rescue mission did indeed arrive. But as a Medevac chopper was raising the wounded Bradbury and another injured soldier, a winch cable broke and the two men plummeted to their deaths.
Command Sgt. Major James Redmore stated it perfectly in summing up Monti's actions on the battlefield that day. "They're being overwhelmed by an enemy force. He's calmly calling in fire, which breaks up the enemy force, and he's going out to try to retrieve one of his fallen comrades. He does it once, twice, a third time. Is it extraordinary? Absolutely. Would every man have the ability to muster the courage to do that? No, I don't believe they would."
Staff Sergeant Monti was posthumously promoted to Sergeant 1st Class the next day. He was later posthumously awarded with the Medal of Honor, the highest military award given by the U.S. government. His citation begins with the statement that his honor was "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." The actions of brave men like Jared Monti are what gave America it's freedom to begin with, and that enable us to remain free and to help extend the opportunity for liberty and freedom throughout the world.
NOTE: this is the continuation of the regular feature "Real American Heroes", all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on that label below this article at the www.mattveasey.com website