During this roundtable, members of the 75th Ranger Regiment discuss their relationship with recent Medal of Honor recipient, Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry and the mission which led to Sgt. 1st Class Petry's Medal of Honor nomination. Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable with Army Sergeant First Class Jerod Staidle, Army Master Sergeant Reese Teakell, Army Captain Kyle Packard, and Former Army Staff Sergeant Daniel Higgins Subject: Their Experiences Serving Alongside Medal of Honor Recipient Sergeant First Class Leroy A. Petry Time: 12:30 p.m. EDT Date: Wednesday, July 13, 2011
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MODERATOR: The clock here reads 12:30, so we will begin. Good afternoon. And first, thank you to everyone for participating in this very special U.S. Army Bloggers media Roundtable.
Today, July 13, 2011, we have the honor and privilege of having our Medal of Honor recipient, Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry's, company leadership and fellow rangers. Sergeant First Class Petry, despite his own severe wounds and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, consciously and deliberately risked his life by picking up a live Army grenade -- enemy grenade, excuse me -- throwing it away from two of his fellow rangers. As Petry was throwing the grenade away from his team, which prevented serious injury or death to Higgins and Robinson, it detonated and catastrophically amputated his right hand.
Before we begin with introductions, I would like to confirm all participants on the line and in the room with us today. So could we please do a quick roll call? We'll begin with our media in the room.
Q: I'm Kathleen Curthoys with Army Times.
Q: Sydney Freedberg, Learning from Veterans and Washingtonian Magazine.
MODERATOR: And we'll begin with the folks on the line we have today, if you could state your name and your blog affiliation.
Q: This is Dale Kissinger with militaryavenue.com.
Q: Brian Jordan, military.com.
Q: The Warrior Transition Command, with Staff Sergeant Emily Anderson (sp) and Erich Langer.
Q: This is Clifford Jones from the NCO Journal.
MODERATOR: OK, I think that matches my list. Thank you so much.
Please note, this roundtable is being recorded today, so for that reason I ask that you please state your name and blog and organization affiliation clearly before you ask your question. Also, if you're not actively participating in the conversation, please keep your phone muted to eliminate any background noise.
Today we have with us Sergeant First Class Jerod Staidle, Master Sergeant Reese Teakell, Captain Kyle Packard, and Staff Sergeant Daniel Higgins. They're here today to talk about their relationship with Sergeant First Class Petry and the mission that led to Sergeant First Class Petry's nomination.
I'm -- introductions on each one of our participants today. Sergeant First Class Staidle is currently serving as the assistant operations non-commissioned officer assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He has deployed 12 times in support of the war on terror, with three tours to Iraq and nine tours to Afghanistan. At the time of the May 26th, 2008 combat engagement, Sergeant First Class Staidle was a platoon sergeant assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Master Sergeant Reese Teakell, assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, with duties at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as the ranger operational requirements liaison. He leaves this summer for the Sergeant Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. He has deployed nine times in support of combat operations. At the time of the May 26, 2008 combat engagement, Master Sergeant Teakell was the first sergeant of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Captain Kyle Packard is an infantry officer assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Packard is currently assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia. He has four combat deployments, two to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. He was Sergeant First Class Petry's platoon leader during the May 28th -- 26th, 2008 combat mission.
And Staff Sergeant Daniel Higgins has ended his commitment to the United States Army and is currently a college student in Charleston, South Carolina. He has had -- he has deployed six times in support of the war on terror, with three tours to Iraq and three tours to Afghanistan. At the time of the May 26th, 2008 combat engagement, Higgins was a sergeant assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
With that being said -- and they don't have any opening statements today -- we will open the floor for any questions. We will begin today with our folks in the room.
From Army Times.
Q: I'd like to clarify. You know, when we talk about multiple deployments, are these ranger deployments the same length as, say, somebody from 3rd ID, for example? Are you going for a shorter period of time?
MS. : No, the ranger deployments are shorter. They're approximately four months. And at any given time the ranger -- (inaudible, audio interference) -- battalion deployed forward to Afghanistan.
MS. : Because this is being recorded, please state your name before you reply -- or ask a question and reply to a question.
MS. : OK.
MS. : Thank you.
Q: Well, I'd love each of the gentlemen here just to tell me a little -- us a little bit about themselves -- you know, where you grew up, where you came from, and what got you into the Army, and whether that was a good -- seemed like a good idea at the time or still seems like a good idea.
SGT. STAIDLE: Sergeant First Class Jerod Staidle. I'm from Lancaster, California, and I graduated high school in 1998 and joined the army a month later. It's pretty much something I always wanted to do. And couldn't see myself doing anything else, sir.
Q: So you're planning to stay in for 20? If --
SGT. STAIDLE: Yes, sir.
Q: More if they have -- more if they'll keep you?
SGT. STAIDLE: No, just 20. (Laughter.)
Q: That's probably enough.
SGT. STAIDLE: Yeah.
MR. HIGGINS: Daniel Higgins. I grew up in San Luis Obispo, California. I joined the Army a year after I graduated from high school, and it was the greatest time I've ever had in my life. Loved every second of it. I've been out for about a week now. And I already want to get back in. (Laughter.)
CAPT. PACKARD: Captain Packard. I joined the Army when I was 17 and still in high school. And then -- the Army's put me through college. Something -- it's the only thing I've ever done. I absolutely love it -- (audio break) -- plan on staying in as long as the Army will have me.
Q: So you are -- you're a prior enlisted?
CAPT. PACKARD: Yes, yeah. For about four years, as I went through -- I was in the National Guard. I'm from --
Q: Yeah, I know that program OK.
CAPT. PACKARD: I grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa.
SGT. TEAKELL: I'm Master Sergeant Reese Teakell. I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I came in the Army in '92, shortly after high school, not knowing -- knowing that I wanted to serve my country and all the things that are, you know, implied with that. And basically what kept me in the Army is, you know, shortly after coming in in '92, Somalia kicked off and, you know, I found that that -- probably one of the better organizations to be a part of. And wanted to see that (to root ?). So 19 years later, here I am.
Q: Were you in Somalia yourself, or -- ?
SGT. TEAKELL: I was.
Q: For -- were you there during the "Black Hawk down" incident?
SGT. TEAKELL: Yes.
Q: Personally involved with the relief column or with the guys who were out there being --
SGT. TEAKELL: Yeah, I was out with the initial assault, not with the relief column that came out for us. I was part of the ground assault element that went out in the vehicles, separate from the air assault package that went in that day.
MODERATOR: Before we move forward with additional questions, did we have others joining us on the line?
Q: Yes. This is Tom Sileo with the Unknown Soldiers blog and the USO, and my colleague Joe Lee (sp) is here, and also Victoria White (sp), who is our director of new media.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Tom.
I'm sorry, and someone in the room just joined us?
Q: Yeah, Luis Martinez, ABC News.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
We can continue. Clifford Jones, did you have a question?
Q: No, I'm good for right now. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
Staff Sergeant Anderson (sp) from MEDCOM, did you have a question?
Q: Yes. I guess the first question would be for Sergeant First Class Petry. Could you tell us a little bit about --
MODERATOR: I'm sorry, ma'am. This roundtable is with his teammates. Sergeant Petry -- Staff -- First Class Petry isn't with us today. Did you have a question for someone else in the room? Q: Sure. Actually, we're with MEDCOM, so we're interested in knowing from the soldiers in the room the value and role of Army medicine in recovery and saving lives on the battlefield, and maybe some personal accounts of how that has affected them.
MODERATOR: Sir, for that information I think we can chat with you offline. Did you have a question for one of his teammates here today?
Q: Not at this time, then.
MODERATOR: OK, thank you.
Dale Kissinger, do you have a question?
Q: I do. Are any of the participants able to attend the ceremony yesterday? And can you give us your thoughts about the ceremony when Sergeant Petry got his Medal of Honor?
MS. : Did you attend the Medal of Honor ceremony yesterday? What was it like for you guys to be in the room?
SGT. STAIDLE: This is Sergeant First Class Jerod Staidle, sir. Probably the best experience of my life was attending that ceremony yesterday -- other than the birth of my child, obviously. (Laughter.)
MR. : Good save. (Laughter.)
Q: Good save, yes. OK. Anybody else have any comments on it?
SGT. TEAKELL: This is Master Sergeant Reese Teakell. I mean, you know, certainly, you know, you work with guys every day and you get to know them. And it's a truly -- it's a unique privilege to be able to see one of your guys get recognized for the heroism that he displayed. So, you know, truly a good day for, you know, Sergeant Petry and being able to recognize him, and then the organization that he was a part of during that time frame.
Q: I'm very interested how you guys -- when did you first meet Sergeant Petry? You know, how well have you known him over the years?
SGT. STAIDLE: I've known Sergeant Petry probably since about 2005. I knew who he was before that. And about 2005 or 2006, we were briefly working in the operations section. This is Sergeant First Class Staidle again. We were working in the operations section of our unit. At that point we were just acquaintances. In October of 2007, when Delta Company first stood up, Sergeant Petry was assigned as a weapons squad leader in my platoon. And that's when I really got to know him, and a lot of things that I learned about him after that point.
Q: I mean, what was your -- what was his rep? Since you said you knew -- you knew of him before you knew him, what was his sort of rep in the ranger world? And, you know, what was your personal impression of him, and how'd you -- you know, how'd you -- you know, get -- that impression develop as you've, you know, worked with him over time?
SGT. STAIDLE: Well, he -- you know, he had a great reputation in the battalion.
But my -- you know, the impression that I got right from the very beginning of when we started up Delta Company is what an outgoing and selfless person he is -- just -- you never had to ask him to do anything, because he was already ready to do it. And he was the guy that was willing to stay after work, you know, after everybody had been released, when he didn't need to. And he used to come up -- come upstairs -- or come into the office with, you know, sweat coming down his face after executing a task -- you know, just -- you know, I was -- I was extremely impressed with him from the very beginning of him, working with him.
Q: And what was his job then, and your job?
MR. : At the time I was a platoon sergeant. He was the weapons squad leader, which is the senior squad leader in the platoon, sir.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
CAPT. PACKARD: This is -- this is Captain Packard here, if I could just kind of jump on that as well. I had the opportunity to be a PL for just -- almost three years, and by far he was the best squad leader I ever had a chance to serve with. Going along with what Sergeant Staidle had to say, you know, a lot of times he would come in the office, be the first one in there at 06(00), and he'd want to know what you'd want to get done for the day, and then we wouldn't see him all the rest of the day, and he'd be the last one in the office, coming to tell us this laundry list of amazing things he had accomplished all day. And his just dedication was always extremely impressive to me.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
Brian Jordan from military.com, did you have a question?
Q: Yes, I did. Thank you very much. I've read the -- some of the synopsis of what transpired that day, and I wonder if any of you fellows could give me a description -- a better description of where Sergeant Petry and these other -- and these other soldiers were. You read that they took shelter behind a chicken coop. And maybe it's because I grew up in the city and I assume those are very fragile and not very big. If you see -- if you saw this, what did it actually look like? And what kind of cover would it -- could it have provided? MR. HIGGINS: This is Daniel Higgins. I was one of the guys with Petry in that courtyard. We're calling it a chicken coop. There were chickens in it. It was like a -- everything's made of this pretty thick mud. It was a -- it was a mud hut, probably about two feet thick of walls. So, I mean, it did provide good cover. And yeah, it wasn't -- it wasn't little wire baskets or anything. It was a mud house.
Q: Yeah, that's what I had in my mind, this wire thing. I couldn't figure -- (chuckles) -- how you could have gotten any cover out of that.
MR. HIGGINS: Yeah, yeah.
Q: Oh, OK. Well, that -- about how high was it?
MR. HIGGINS: It was about -- probably six feet high.
Q: Oh, OK. All right. All right. Well, that's helpful. Thanks. That's been going around in my head, figuring how those guys got any cover at all. Thank you so much.
MR. HIGGINS: You're welcome.
Q: Now, and you were, as I recall, right there with them, is that correct?
MR. : Yes, sir. He -- me, him and Robinson -- well, him and Robinson went out in the courtyard first, and that's when they got shot. And then I went out there next, and so I was down by the chicken coop with Robinson and Sergeant Petry.
Q: I mean, if I -- you know, talk to some -- you know, Ms. Bailey (sp) here has helped me, you know, figure out -- this is Sydney Freedberg talking, for the -- for the record -- you know, figure out a lot about ranger ops, and I've talked to some of your, you know, comrades about -- I know normally the idea is to come in with such overwhelming speed and force that you get the high-value target who doesn't have a chance to fire a shot. Obviously that did not happen this day.
So I'm curious, you know, if you folks could -- especially you, Sergeant -- can give me sort of the context of the mission that day and, you know -- you only get a Medal of Honor when things go wrong. So how'd it start going wrong? And how did people, you know, like Sergeant Petry rise to that occasion, which they certainly did?
MR. : Well, we can all -- probably all speak on this. But, I mean, we -- it was a daylight mission, and when we landed -- you know, it -- we had to move quite a ways to get to the building that we were going to. So if they were going to have time to do something, they did. Because, you know, obviously the helicopters are loud, everybody sees them, and then we had to run a pretty decent distance to get to the house. So we didn't have the speed that we probably wanted getting there.
SGT. TEAKELL: Well, you know, it's -- and certainly it's -- Master Sergeant Reese Teakell. Certainly it's the cover piece. And you see -- you lose some of those advantages that you get when you do a night raid, where you've got the cover of darkness and you've got the advantage of some of the technology that we use with our specialty equipment.
So -- although the -- you know, the risk is higher, it -- just like Dan Higgins is telling you, those guys have an opportunity to -- especially when there's time -- to find better cover. And so a couple of these guys, because of, you know, type of people they were, understood, you know, a little bit of how to hide, where to be. And that's kind of the -- you know, the -- that's what led to the events that day, you know?
Certainly one guy in a -- in that brush pile business, and then, you know, the guy that was behind the wall. So it's just a matter of getting to those -- what we call points of domination, and being able to control or eliminate that threat.
Q: And talking about the house -- the compound, rather -- is this sort of out by itself in a rural area? Or are other compounds around? Or actually in a, you know, fairly built-up area by Afghan standards?
SGT. TEAKELL: I would say that it's -- you know, the compounds being what they are, there were other compounds locally, separated by, you know, several hundred meters. So yeah, rural, not urban, but a little bit more built up in a rural aspect in Afghanistan.
Q: Northern Virginia suburbia.
CAPT. PACKARD: Well, you had -- this is Captain Packard here. You had a village that was approximately, I would say, maybe 200 meters to the west, I believe --
MR. : Yes.
CAPT. PACKARD: To the west. And then you had our target area, which was about four compounds that were separated by the farm field. And then on initial, after we landed the helicopters, there was a small engagement before we actually entered the target building in itself. So there was that period of time when the enemy -- you know, regardless of whether it would have been day or night, they would have known that we were there.
And I think one of the distinctions about this mission that made it so unique was, like Master Sergeant Teakell was saying, the enemy went to points of domination, but they also went to that point of domination knowing that they were going to die. There was absolutely no -- they weren't leaving. They were there to allow --
MR. : Create opportunity.
CAPT. PACKARD: -- create opportunity for the HVT to escape.
And they went to those points of domination knowing that they were going to die and they wanted to take as many American soldiers as they wanted with them.
And one thing I like to try to bring up sometimes is that, you know, not only did Sergeant Petry save the lives of Sergeant Higgins, Robinson and himself, but there's no telling how many rangers that I would have had to commit -- Sergeant Staidle can attest to this -- to have to pull those guys out. Because if he doesn't do that, obviously he's wounded regardless; who knows how badly wounded these guys are; and now I've got a situation where I've got to get these rangers out, I've got these enemy that are still not suppressed in the courtyard, and we now have to commit more and more rangers in order -- because we're not going to -- you know, we're not going to -- we're not going to leave those guys. We got -- we're going to go back in; we're going to take care of the problem, so.
SGT. STAIDLE: This is Sergeant Staidle, and that's a good point that Captain Packard brought up. You know, basically, shortly after Sergeant Petry had thrown that grenade back and been wounded, shortly after that, there was another enemy inside that outer courtyard. He was very well hidden in -- under this huge pile of -- I thought it was, like, branches, things like that.
MR. : It was -- (inaudible).
MR. : Yeah, it was a big pile of firewood. It was -- so branches, brush.
SGT. STAIDLE: Yeah. I couldn't see. I was -- you couldn't -- you couldn't just look at it and see this guy. And that was the guy that actually engaged Specialist Gathercole. So, you know, had Petry not done that, then Sergeant Higgins wouldn't have been able to return fire in -- you know, on that enemy. And so who knows what could have happened, you know.
MR. : The point is, these guys were not by any means pushovers. In fact, you know, in their own terms, they're -- they are, you know, the Silver Star and DSC and Medal of Honor soldiers for their side, as they look at it. CAPT. PACKARD: Oh, they were ready to martyr themselves, in their own terms, essentially. And -- this is Captain Packard again. And, you know, whenever you have an enemy like that, you
know, there's going to -- something's going to happen. And we kind of knew going in that there was going to be a pretty significant fight. We were prepared for that. There was no illusion that this was going to be just one of those missions where it was quick and nothing was going to happen. If, in fact, the HVT we were looking for was going to be there, then there was going to be a fight. And that's kind of the mentality we went in -- into the mission. So, you know, we were prepared for that.
Q: This is Kathy (sp) Curthoys, Army Times. How long did the fighting go on after the grenade incident?
CAPT. PACKARD: Captain Packard again. It went on for a significant period of time, maybe eight, nine hours.
MR. : Yeah, I mean, in total duration.
CAPT. PACKARD: Yeah.
MR. : You know, I think we got through the physical contact -- you know, returning fire -- in about four, four-and-a-half hours.
CAPT. PACKARD: Yeah. And then there was more skirmishes --
MR. : Right.
CAPT. PACKARD: -- as the day progressed.
Q: Were you focused on just one compound, or all four of them? Was your target in --
CAPT. PACKARD: We had two compounds that we had -- we -- Sergeant Staidle led one group and I led the other group. And the plan going in was to simultaneously clear both those buildings. And then after the initial contact, we started -- as the -- as the day progressed into night, there was more fighters that tried to approach the targeted area, and we had several engagements from the -- (inaudible) -- village location, and then there was probably, I would say -- I would estimate anywhere from six to eight, I believe, fighters that approached from -- make sure I'm getting my (crop ?) directions right -- but the north, through the fields.
Because it was -- you know, you had the village; you had our targeted area, like I was talking about, the four separated buildings; and then you had just vast, you know, farm area with very tall grass. So there were -- there was enemy that was able to approach us after obviously hearing the gunshots, and used the concealment of the -- of -- it was probably waist-high grass that -- and, you know, different irrigation ditches for the farm fields, and be able to approach to us pretty much undetected. Q: What was your fatigue level like after eight or nine hours of engagement?
SGT. STAIDLE: Well, you know, we were -- we were about two months into the deployment at that time, and the elevation was pretty
high. But we had been conducting operations at that level, and, you know, the guys are in great shape. But I think by the end, pretty tired.
MR. : Yeah.
Q: It's more mental, though, isn't it, than physical, in a situation like that? If you're --
MR. : No, it's both.
MR. : I mean, really -- yeah, I mean, obviously, we weren't thinking about, you know, how physically tired we were or, you know -- I mean, by that point, you know, guys were -- might have been running low on water, but otherwise we -- you know, it was just something that wasn't -- didn't really affect us, because we weren't thinking about it.
Q: (Inaudible) --
MR. : It was not uncommon to, you know, be out, you know, doing that kind of thing for that period of time. So, you know, obviously more high adventure, more physically, you know, straining on, you know, the mental aspect, the physical aspect. But the boys, you know, just like Sergeant Staidle was saying, that they -- you know, they'd been doing this for two-and-a-half months, high physical stamina, and very capable, you know, both mentally and physically, to do what we asked them to do that day.
Q: What about after Sergeant Petry was wounded? Was there -- did that -- (inaudible) -- with -- you know, I know that there must have been a feeling of, well, this has gotten kind of intense. And there were other wounded, and certainly -- is it Gathercole -- was shot. Were those incidents compressed into a small time frame and then you had to keep going for hours after that? What was that impact on you mentally?
MR. : Well, from my standpoint, you know, obviously Sergeant Petry being the weapons squad leader, the senior squad leader there, after he was gone I would -- you know, kind of had to cover down and do what he would normally do. At some point the guys went back down to kind of search, you know, the buildings and everything. And so I ended up taking control of the high ground to kind of overwatch the objective area while they went down there. And honestly, I thought he would -- I thought the rest of the guys would have been down there for, you know, a half hour, and it ended up being a few hours, so I was up there the whole time. And yeah, these things were running through my mind, and I'm just wondering what's going on. You know, I knew that -- I knew that Petry was going to make it, but every -- the big question on everyone's mind was how Gathercole was doing, obviously because he was shot in the head. And, you know, that was -- that was kind of tough. But obviously in that situation you have another task at hand. So it's not something that'll, you know, stop you from doing what you need to do, definitely.
SGT. TEAKELL: Master Sergeant Teakell.
This is, you know, the point of, you know, the training cycle that you do in preparation for the -- in preparation for the deployment for something like this. And you try to make that training as real as possible so that when you do have those real-life distracters from the mission, as tragic as they are, such as, you know, Petry and Gathercole and Robinson and Higgins getting injured, the boys, you know, they have been trained to, you know, such a degree that they continue to do their job despite those distractions. And that's, you know, largely contributed to -- contributed to the success of the guys that day. You know, I mean, certainly, you know, as we kind of alluded to before, there was an opportunity for it to be worse. And it was because of that -- you know, that level of training, the guys doing what they, you know, trained to do, you know, overcome that stuff.
CAPT. PACKARD: Yeah. Captain Packard here. Within moments of Sergeant Staidle and First Sergeant here getting towards the casualty collection point, we were right back at work, because, you know, we still had the enemy behind the chicken coop. I had guys -- you know, we brought more rangers to that building to assist. We still had the enemy combatant behind the chicken coop that we needed to take care of.
And I -- you know, a testament to the heroism of the rangers on the objective: I had more volunteers to do more very brave actions to get that guy. And, you know, it's amazing to me -- you know, these guys, they just did amazing things the rest of the day. They didn't skip a beat. Because we still had a fight on our hands. And we had -- we had more enemy coming. We had, you know, fire missions coming in that we had to execute. And no one -- no one skipped a beat until, I think, we got off the helicopter and they realized that we had lost Specialist Gathercole. But it's really a testament to the heroism of the rangers in Delta Company.
MODERATOR: Mr. Martinez from ABC News, did you have a question, in the room with us?
Q: Yes. I understand the op tempo for you guys is very high during your deployments, several hundred operations, I think. How -- where did this rank, this operation on this particular day? How did it rank on the complexity scale of those operations -- (off mic)? And the HVT that you were going after, can you tell me what the circumstances were of that individual and what happened? CAPT. PACKARD: This is Captain Packard. As far as the complexity goes for the mission, it's probably the most complex mission that had happened for the ranger regiment in quite some time. I know at the point -- that point in time, it was one of the first daylight raids --
MR. : In recent history.
CAPT. PACKARD: -- in recent history with helicopters. That's not done because it is so dangerous, because of the signature of the helicopter coming in. It makes it extremely dangerous.
As far as the HVT goes --
MS. : We talked about --
CAPT. PACKARD: OK. Yeah.
MS. : Hi. Tracy Bailey (sp) with the public affairs office, 75th Ranger Regiment. The HVT, we can't go into too much detail about him, but he did get away that day. We did not get him.
Q: Now, you've mentioned several times -- this is Sydney Freedberg again -- that, you know, it was a very unusual -- for this to be a daylight raid. Was there a factor about the HVT being about to slip away that -- or some other, you know, time-sensitive thing that made you decide to go in by daylight even though you -- as you said, you knew this was going to be much more dangerous as a result?
SGT. TEAKELL: I mean -- Master Sergeant Reese Teakell. When you get targets of opportunity that are narrow -- you know, because -- you know, those kind of HVTs move and try to stay mobile -- you weigh that risk of, given the opportunity, is the value of the target worth going after? So -- and the commander and -- my commander and the task force commander, you know, weighed and valued that and thought that it was worth taking that opportunity to go after.
Q: Is that target still out there today? Or has the target been --
MS. : Again, it's not something we can discuss.
Q: Hi. This is Tom Sileo with the USO. Would it be OK if I asked a question?
MR. : Psychic. (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you. I -- first of all, thank you all four very much for your service to our country. I wanted to follow up when you were talking about Specialist Gathercole. I thought a very touching moment yesterday was when the commander in chief asked his brother, who he was very close with, and his grandma to stand up. This was somebody -- a 21-year-old young man who overcame a lot. I read that he had spent a lot of time in foster homes. What did that moment mean to those of you -- and please, anybody feel free to jump in -- but can you talk a little bit about the emotion behind that, particularly as Sergeant First Class Petry has the plaque to honor him on his new hand?
SGT. STAIDLE: This is Sergeant First Class Staidle. For me it was -- it was extremely moving that he did that. And I really appreciated that the president did that. And, you know, I think I speak on behalf of everybody, you know, from the platoon that knew him that were in that room. You know, they were probably, to a certain extent, you know, probably holding back some tears, I'll be honest.
MR. HIGGINS: And this is Daniel Higgins. You know, Gator -- we call him Gator -- he meant everything to all of us. We -- when you spend as much time together as we all do, like, we were pretty much brothers. And so, you know, losing him hurt us like crazy. I mean, we were all --
MR. : He was one of the three amigos.
MR. HIGGINS: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, it was tough on all of us. And so being able to see his grandma there and his brother, it was awesome. And we still keep in contact with them. And for them to know and have acknowledged what Gator did, it was awesome. And they loved every second of it. And so did we.
SGT. TEAKELL: And this is Master Sergeant Reese Teakell. It's truly important for us to -- you know, there are -- all of our service men and women are national treasures. You know, so when they deploy and they sacrifice, you know, what they do, got to remember how valuable that is. And those that give that ultimate sacrifice, we have to continue to remember, you know, the value of that sacrifice. And it was, I think, truly, you know, important that -- you know, or significant that the president recognized that and then thanked them. And remember, we got to always remember those guys and the sacrifice that they make so that we can continue to do what we do.
MR. : Well said.
Q: Thank you. Staff Sergeant Higgins, if I might follow up for a second, you and Private First Class Robinson are alive because of what Sergeant First Class Petry did. So as, you know, you take classes in Charleston and go about your daily life and then you experience a ceremony like yesterday, what's that like to carry around, knowing -- you know, thinking about that moment and thinking about what he did for you and Private First Class Robinson and all the rangers that day? MR. HIGGINS: Well, I mean, me and Robinson were actually talking about that yesterday. I mean, we pretty much feel forever indebted to him. And it's -- that's not going to change. There's no really -- there's not going to be a hell of a lot of opportunity for us to pay him back. (Laughter.) But, you know, the fact that me and him are alive -- every time I talk to Robinson, I think about Petry, because I know that Robinson wouldn't be here if, you know, Sergeant Petry hadn't done what he did.
So -- and, you know, I -- like we said before, it doesn't surprise us that he did it. That's the kind of guy he is. And, you know, I don't -- I don't know too much what to say about it, but he, like -- he's an awesome guy. And I keep up with him. I still talk to him all the time. And, you know, if there's some way I could pay him back -- I wish I could.
SGT. STAIDLE: This is Sergeant First Class Staidle. Not -- sorry to cut in. I think it's something that continues -- what I've seen, it's continued to pay itself forward. Sergeant Higgins here, for instance, he moved -- he went on to become a squad leader himself, and he was an outstanding squad leader. And just the impact that he made in the
lives of his men below him is going to continue to echo throughout the -- you know, the platoon and the company. And, you know, whatever his plans are -- you know, I'd like him to come back in the Army, but if he doesn't, whatever he does, he's going to continue to make impacts in people's lives. So that -- I think, you know, you just keep doing what you're doing, and that's -- you know, you pay it forward.
Q: Thank you very much.
Q: And this is Joe Lee (sp), if I could follow up real quick about the rules of engagement and the high-value target there. Was there something withholding an airstrike? Or -- why was it necessary to maybe capture this high-value target as opposed to destroying the compound?
CAPT. PACKARD: This is Captain Packard here. Rules of engagement really haven't changed. It's still hostile intent, hostile act. And as far as conducting a strike on a building, that's way above anybody's pay grade in this -- in this room right here, so. But hostile intent, hostile action is the rules of engagement.
Q: Speaking of other things that are usually way above your folks' pay grades, what's it like being under constant media siege, you know, in the White House, you know, talking to bloggers and other weaselly press people -- which is, you know, not something that Army folks generally seek out?
CAPT. PACKARD: Captain Packard -- oh, go ahead. Go ahead.
MR. : This is not speaking about any of us, but we were out and we saw Sergeant Petry on the news last night, and we were all getting real impressed that he's starting to look really comfortable in front of the cameras. (Laughter.) So he looks like he's becoming a natural at it. The rest of us don't know what we're doing, though. (Laughter.) SGT. TEAKELL: You know, when you see -- when you recognize Sergeant Petry and the extraordinary, you know, sacrifice and the act that he did that day, and then -- you know, you kind of expect that of the media and -- you know, out of the country, that they want to know. And you want to know as much about that as you possibly can. So -- you know, so from my perspective, it's -- you know, it's not out of place, and it's certainly our responsibility to project that story and tell that story so that people see and recognize that type of heroism within our society, that we do have those heroes and they walk amongst -- you know, amongst us every day, just normal people. So it's good to get that story out and to remember.
CAPT. PACKARD: Captain Packard. There are so few people in our country that serve nowadays that anytime, especially with these group of guys, it's all about Staff Sergeant -- or Sergeant First Class Petry and, you know, the other rangers in 2 Delta. Any time that they can be recognized, it's worth whatever -- you know, whatever you have to go through in order to make sure that some of the guys like that get the recognition that they deserve and people, like Master Sergeant Teakell was talking about, understand that heroes walk amongst them. Because
they're never going to say anything. You know, if it wasn't for you guys, I'm pretty sure --
MR. : Telling the story.
CAPT. PACKARD: -- telling the story, Sergeant First Class Petry would be just happy getting the medal and then going back to work, because that's the type of guy he is.
Q: How often do you see this kind of bravery? Kathy (sp) Curthoys with Army Times. Do you see this kind of bravery very often? Do you see it in each of you? You talked about being --
MR. : Well, you know, obviously to see this kind of bravery you have to be put in a situation that, you know, calls for it. But you see the traits that, you know -- that lead to this type of bravery every day with everybody, you know, you serve with in this organization. And I remember when I got to Leroy and I'm looking at him with his wounds, and really, in the casualty collection point, I remember thinking to myself, you know, this happened; it's -- you know, it's terrible. But it doesn't surprise me that he did it, because of everything I had seen with him, for the -- you know, the few months that we had been, you know, working together.
And we had done a lot from October to May 26th, up until that point. We had done a lot and come a long way as a unit. And, you know, there are some other moving moments, even before we deployed there, that -- and some great things that -- you know, the standup of Delta Company, it happened in about six weeks, six weeks of actual training before we were certified as a ranger rifle company. And it just -- the things that, you know, took place to make that happen was just amazing. MR. : You look at it, all these guys are, you know, heroes. And it's unique in -- especially in our organization, because these guys volunteer over and over and over again to make that decision to put themselves in harm's way, knowing that that harm's going to be imminent. So, you know, they're going to -- you know, they've volunteered for the organization that's very selective and very -- you know, very grueling to live within, and knowing that you're going to deploy and do this job that is very important, you know, not only to the -- you know, the mission overall, but to their -- you know, their fellow comrades left and right of them.
So, you know, to make that decision, you know, you see that -- you know, it's bravery at its essence, and, you know, it's an indication of the heroes that we -- you know, we -- you know, we send overseas.
Q: Since there is this culture of modesty, I should -- we should probably ask, any of you four around this table have valor decorations -- presumably not Medals of Honor, but valor decorations or Purple Hearts or other ribbons and entitlements that you haven't mentioned yet?
MR. : I'd rather just talk about Sergeant Petry. (Laughter.)
Q: What is under that lapel? (Chuckles.)
MR. : I know. I'm such a skinny guy that this covers everything. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, maybe, Ms. Bailey (sp), you can give us their military records if they're not willing to tell us. (Chuckles.)
MS. : Actually, you guys should have gotten their bios.
Q: Oh, OK.
MS. : Yeah. And their awards are on their bios.
Q: I do have another question, if I may. Sergeant Petry has come back and deployed again. What would you guys say about his comeback?
SGT. TEAKELL: You mean as far as him, you know, physically and mentally, is it -- what he's -- you know, how is he impacting the guys, which -- what are you looking --
Q: He's -- oh, in terms of -- he's come back, he's learned to deal with being left-handed now, he has deployed again. Whatever your impression is of him coming back from that incident -- whatever it might be. MR. : Well, anybody that meets Leroy Petry, he'll come up, he'll extend out his prosthetic hand to shake. And about 10 seconds later you'll forget that he's missing his right hand, because -- (audio break) -- something that -- you know, he does not let that get in the way of his life. And you quickly, you know -- I mean, I'd be --
MR. : (Inaudible) -- limitation to what -- you know, how he goes about his daily business.
MR. : Exactly.
MR. : You know, so he attacks, you know, with the same type of character and the same type of, you know, aggressive personality that Leroy has. He goes at -- you know, his ethic, his job ethic -- you know, whether it's -- you know, in his personal life or whether it's in his professional life -- you know, but that same type of, you know, mentality: Hey, it's not a limitation because there's nothing you can do about. So he does everything that he can to, you know, be successful, given what he's got.
Q: This is Joe Lee (sp) with the USO. Speaking of daily life, with the prosthetic hand, do any of you guys know the extent of his, like, retraining on the range? It's got to be a completely different animal firing a pistol and a rifle with a prosthetic as opposed to -- you know, you got -- I'm sure he's retraining. Do any of you -- could any of you speak on that?
Q: Are you still there, sir?
MR. : Yeah, I'm here.
MR. : Go ahead. Sorry.
SGT. TEAKELL: OK. This is Master Sergeant Reese Teakell. Sergeant Petry, you know, re-enlisted, stayed in the Army. He is currently going through, you know, those recovery type of processes that are, you know, getting him healthy. So -- and what he's doing right now is serving as that, you know, liaison for our wounded warriors within our community. So he is spending less time working toward, you know, the range-specific stuff, more time so taking care of our guys and our, you know, wounded guys coming back from overseas, and looking to attack that -- you know, that problem that you're addressing in the future.
Q: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Now for additional questions? Does anyone on the line have additional questions? OK. Well, I'd like to thank everyone for your great questions and participation. We would invite you to visit Sergeant First Class Petry's official microsite, www.army.mil/medalofhonor/petry to view the battlescape and account of the battle, including a graphic depiction of the chicken coop. (Laughter.) We can provide you with any high-resolution photos or images of those graphics to use in your blogs and articles. Just e-mail me and let me know which ones you would like to use, and I will provide those to you. We also ask that you include a link to the Army's micro-site honoring Petry in your blog or article.
Again, we'd just like to thank everyone for participating. Sergeant First Class Staidle, Master Sergeant Teakell, Captain Packard and Staff Sergeant Higgins. And there will be an audio file -- audio file and transcript available of this call. Please allow one to two business days for the content to be ready. And again, I will send the email to all the participants once that information is available.
Thank you again, and this ends our roundtable.
MR. : Thank you.
MR. : Thank you very much.
MR. : Thank you.
|Date Posted:||07.14.2011 12:37|
|Location:||WASHINGTON, DC, US|
This work, U.S. Army Bloggers Roundtable - July 13, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.