News: 'No Slack' soldiers fight relentlessly, repel insurgent attacks
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Three soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division received awards Jan. 6 for valorous conduct during a two-day joint operation with the Afghan National Security Forces in Kunar province.
For their actions during Operation Strong Eagle, U.S. Army Capt. Steven J. Weber was awarded the Silver Star with Valor; U.S. Army Cpl. Joshua M. Frappier and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class John T. Howerton were awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.
Gen. David Petraeus, International Security Assistance Force commander, presented the awards during a ceremony at Forward Operating Base Fenty.
The recipients were out on a mission June 27-28 in the village of Daridam, a known sanctuary for Taliban extremists in the Ghaki Valley, when their unit came under heavy attack by insurgent fighters.
According to his award recommendation, Weber, HHC company commander and a Winthrop, Minn., native, was responsible for seizing the village of Daridam. During his mission, Weber and his men were ambushed by three groups of insurgents. He immediately organized his company and personally led them to break initial contact and find a better, more defendable terrain position.
With his rifle platoons pinned down, he organized his engineers and maneuver platoon’s vehicles to lay down accurate suppressive and supporting direct fires. He continued to push forward, called in medical evacuations and aerial resupply missions, and kept his men safe and in the fight while dismounted and exposed to enemy contact throughout the morning.
“This was the highlight of my career—leading these men, watching them execute everything I asked of them—it’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my military career and probably the best day I’ll ever have,” said Weber. “Being with these men, leading them, and watching them succeed and accomplish the mission was, by far, the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Frappier of St. Petersburg, Fla., and his team began receiving mortar fire, dozens of rocket-propelled grenades, heavy weapons and small-arms fire, during the June operation. Disregarding his own personal safety, he exposed himself numerous times during the first of the complex attacks. As a team leader for 1st Platoon, he maintained control of his team throughout the dismounted movement and placed himself in a position to shield a wounded fellow Soldier from heavy enemy machine gun fire.
“Pvt. [Stephen] Palu is a fellow soldier and brother,” said Frappier. “I did what I was taught. I went out and provided buddy aid for him, patched him up and got him out of there as quickly as possible; he would have done the same thing for me.”
Howerton, a San Antonio native, currently serving as a platoon sergeant for Scout Platoon, was tasked to provide area reconnaissance of the town in Marawara District and to interdict enemy forces to facilitate the movement of his battalion’s main ground effort. Once in position, he and his platoon members established a tactical overwatch.
On the morning of June 28, Howerton’s platoon came under a close-combat attack from a 40-member insurgent group. Outnumbered 2-to-1, Howerton repositioned his platoon to provide protection to other elements in his unit, while defending his current battle position against unrelenting waves of attacks.
During the fighting, one of his radio telephone operators was shot twice by enemy fire, along with his platoon leader who was knocked 120 meters down the mountainside by gunfire.
“We thought he got shot in the head at first because of the way he had fallen down the mountain,” Howerton said about his platoon leader. “It was so far down, we didn’t know how we were going to get down there. I called on Staff Sgt. [Brent] Schneider, a recon and sniper squad leader, and he repositioned some guys to overwatch where [the platoon leader] was so [the enemy] couldn’t get to him. Then we had the helicopters come in and basically circle around over the top of him to make sure [no insurgents] came to get him.”
Due to Howerton’s arduous actions and cool judgement under extreme and accurate hostile fire, the scout platoon was able to repel the insurgent fighters.
“The biggest thing is that you can’t forget the two guys who died on that mountain that day. I feel like everyone is getting awarded for it and talking about the operation. But we can’t forget those two guys. I think sometimes we stray away from that, and that’s not good.”