News: Cold Steel Battery bids farewell to fallen warrior
Story by Sgt. Jazz Burney
COMBAT OUTPOST GORMACH, Afghanistan - Quiet sobs were heard from battle hardened soldiers with 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team as they bid farewell to their fallen comrade, Staff Sgt. Jose Caraballo-Pietri, during a memorial ceremony here April 16.
On a hilltop near a rural village during a dismounted patrol April 10, Caraballo-Pietri and his squad were measuring where previous mortar rounds landed to improve the battery’s firing accuracy, when unidentified enemy fighters fired on the squad from nearby hills. Caraballo-Pietri was shot in his upper thigh during the fire fight, which prompted those who were not returning fire to quickly place a tourniquet on the wounded soldier. While aboard a military aircraft en route to a medical facility, Caraballo-Pietri eventually succumbed to the fatal wound.
During the ceremony, Caraballo-Pietri was described by peers and superiors alike as a quiet and confident professional who always led his soldiers from the front.
“He was a great NCO, he always did everything with enthusiasm which made me enthusiastic. I gained a lot from his leadership style because it encouraged me to do my best,” said Pfc. Charles Schreckenbach, a Beckley, W.Va., native, now a field artilleryman with 2nd Platoon, C Battery.
Whether leading his Soldiers to muscle failure during physical training each day, or fulfilling a company task, Caraballo-Pietri provided direct leadership to his soldiers with a smile.
“It comes as no surprise that on that fateful day of his passing, Caraballo fell out front, demonstrating leadership through his actions, exactly as we would expect of a noncommissioned officer,” said Lt. Col. John O’Grady, the 1-84th Field Artillery Battalion commander.
In spite of Caraballo-Pietri’s short stature, his work ethic motivated his troops to give 100 percent in any task they were given, Schreckenbach added.
The ceremony began with a video presentation that featured photos of Caraballo-Pietri from throughout military career. The recording also captured Caraballo-Pietri spending time with his teammates while jokingly teaching a comrade salsa dancing techniques.
Caraballo-Pietri’s platoon leader, 1st Lt. Michael Lavelle, a Mahopac, N.Y., native, was given the honor of reading a biographical citation and tribute during the ceremony.
“Staff Sgt. Jose Caraballo was an outstanding soldier, husband, son and brother and serving alongside him in combat has been amongst the highest highlights in my life,” said Capt. Tim McCarthy, a Detroit native, now the C Battery commander.
“We have heard all the leadership clichés such as never ask a subordinate to do something you wouldn’t do yourself, I never heard Jose Caraballo make any of these statements. He didn’t have to, he absolutely lived these clichés.”
Caraballo-Pietri began his military career November 1996 and was a cannon crewmember at his first duty station. He separated from the U.S. Army in 2003, only to return July 2007. He served one tour in Iraq as an ammunition team chief before arriving to 1-84 Field Artillery where he served as a section chief for 2nd Platoon, C Battery.
Caraballo-Pietri, a Yauco, Puerto Rico native, is survived by his wife.