BAGRAM AIR FIELD, AFGHANISTAN
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN -- A Missouri National Guard Soldier deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been recognized for his performance under fire. Spec. Andrew Rinkenberger, a St. Louis native, was awarded the Combat Action Badge Sunday,, for his actions when the mission he was on came under enemy fire June 20.
Rinkenberger was serving as the personal security detail for two USACE-Transatlantic Afghanistan District (TAA) civilians when the attack occurred.
"This was about my 30th visit out to this particular construction site," Rinkenberger said. "We were out at the Pol-e-Charki military garrison on the Kabul Military Training Center (a basic training site for the Afghan National Army), so hearing gunshots and shooting isn't out of the ordinary."
According to official reports, a lone gunman fired on the group, which included a platoon of Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division (4th ID) serving as the Guardian Angels; providing site security and transportation. The shots came from a pile of debris about 100 meters from the groups' location. Rinkenberger recalled hearing three to four bursts of gunfire, "about 30 to 40 rounds impacted within in our general vicinity."
"I was quick to realize that this was different, the sound was a lot closer than what we normally hear when we are out there," he said.
Clinton Griffin, one of the two USACE-TAA construction representatives on the mission, was not alarmed when he first heard the shots.
"At first I thought it was fire cracker or the ANA were shooting out in the distance," Griffin said. "Once more shots rang off and I saw the concern from the other soldiers, I knew that it wasn't an exercise; hearing the next couple of shots and seeing our soldiers returning fire was pretty intense."
Rinkenberger led Griffin and the other USACE-TAA civilian to cover behind a dirt mound about 20 meters away. He then helped a 4th ID Soldier who had a wound to his leg get to safety as well.
"The bullet ricocheted off of something then struck him in the calf," Rinkenberger said. "We helped him to cover, we had the MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle) circle around us, circle the wagons so to speak, and we loaded up and took him to the hospital.
"The bad guy, we saw him run away and run down into a little wadi breaking contact. It was pretty quick," he said. "From the first shot to the time we got out of there it was maybe all of five minutes. At the time it seemed a lot longer."
This was first deployment for the six-year veteran, and the first time he faced enemy fire. Rinkenberger said he just reacted, letting his training take over.
"I did what I needed to get the civilians to safety because they are unarmed; and was able to do that relatively quickly," he said. "I don't think I did anything outside of the ordinary."
While Rinkenberger was modest about his actions on that day, the USACE-TAA commander said it shows how the Soldiers of the unit act as a force multiplier; that their presence adds more than just security for the civilians.
"The National Guard and Reserve Soldiers we have augmenting our district are invaluable," Col. Jon Chytka said. "Soldiers like Spec. Rickenberger give our civilian workforce the ability to see first-hand the work we are doing for the Afghan government and Afghan people.
"It's that hands-on, face-to-face interaction that helps ensure we are delivering a quality facility, and it also allows us to mentor the Afghan builders at the same time," he added.
The CAB differs from the CIB (combat infantry badge) in that a Soldier does not have to be assigned to an infantry unit to be awarded the CAB.
Rinkenberger has since redeployed home.
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This work, Deployed St. Louis native earns CAB for actions under fire, by Michael Glasch, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.