Staff Sgt. Clinton LaVor Romesha, Medal of Honor
Staff Sgt. Clinton LaVor Romesha, Medal of Honor

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.  Clinton LaVor Romesha was born in August 1981 in Lake City, California, to a family with a strong military background. His grandfather, Aury Smith, is a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of Normandy.  His father is a Vietnam War veteran who later became a church leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Romesha is the fourth of five siblings, including two brothers who also joined the military.  He is a member of the LDS Church and attended seminary for four years during high school but ultimately decided not to become a missionary for the church as his family had hoped he would.  Romesha grew up in Lake City, where he developed an avid love of hockey.

He married Tamara Romesha on 13 February 2000  They met in junior high school and began dating several years later  The couple have three children; Dessi, Gwen, and Colin.  Friends describe Romesha as having a sense of humor and being “intense, short and wiry.”

Romesha enlisted in the United States Army in September 1999 and underwent Basic Combat Training and later Advanced Individual Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky Trained to be an armor crewman for the M1 Abrams tank, Romesha was first assigned as a tank gunner in B Company, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, and posted at Rose Barracks, Germany. During this posting he deployed to Kosovo as part of the Kosovo Force. His next assignment was as a gunner/assistant tank commander with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor of the 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, South Korea.  After a former mentor was killed in Iraq, Romesha volunteered for a tour supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom when parts of his unit received redeployment orders

Next, Romesha was assigned as section leader with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado. There, he completed the Long Range Reconnaissance Course, the Advanced Leader Course, and Air Assault Training.  Trained as a Cavalry Scout, Romesha saw his second deployment to Iraq in this unit.

In May 2009, Romesha’s unit deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.  His unit was assigned to Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province in Eastern Afghanistan. It replaced the outgoing 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team at the remote outpost in the mountains of a semiautonomous area of the country. Keating was located in a valley surrounded by steep mountains, and over the course of the deployment, it came under attack regularly. U.S. commanders opted to close the outpost by October 2009, considering it indefensible.  During the deployment, Romesha was given the nickname “Ro” by his comrades.  He was noted for his sense of humor and calm temperament in the difficult deployment.

On 3 October 2009, according to a report published by U.S. Army historian Richard S. Lowry, Taliban fighters launched a coordinated attack on the outpost from three sides at about 06:00, capturing its ammunition depot.  Some 300 fighters participated in the attack armed with a recoilless rifle, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, machine guns, and small arms, badly outnumbering the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) presence of about 85 U.S. Army, Afghan National Army and Latvian Army soldiers, and the 35 Afghan soldiers who abandoned their positions  It would later be known as the Battle of Kamdesh.

During the first three hours of the fight, the U.S. troops remained under intense mortar and small arms fire, before the Taliban fighters breached the compound and set fire to it. Romesha moved under heavy fire to reconnoiter the area and seek reinforcements from a nearby barracks, helping the ISAF force to regroup and fight despite being targeted by a Taliban sniper.  Romesha led the firefight to reclaim the depot, organizing a five-man team to counterattack while still under fire. He then neutralized one of the Taliban fighters’ machine gun teams. While engaging a second, he took cover behind a generator which was struck by a rocket propelled grenade  and Romesha was wounded in the neck, shoulder and arms by shrapnel Despite being wounded, Romesha directed air support that killed an estimated 30 Taliban and then took out several more Taliban positions himself. He provided suppressive fire to allow three other wounded American soldiers to reach an aid station and then recovered several American casualties while still under fire. Romesha’s efforts allowed the troop to regroup and fight off a force superior in numbers  The fight lasted 12 hours, and eight American soldiers were killed  making the engagement one of the costliest for ISAF forces during the war  Nine soldiers were decorated with Silver Star Medals for the fight.  Several days later, the ISAF forces withdrew from the post.

Romesha was only able to contact his wife four days after the battle, and later noted she was greatly upset when hearing the full story of his actions at Kamdesh. In an interview later with Soldiers Live, Romesha said he felt he “was being selfish and not being fair” having volunteered for so many deployments away from his wife and children. Following the Afghanistan deployment, Romesha went through the Army Career and Alumni Program in preparation to separate from the Army.   Romesha left the Army on 4 April 2011.

Following military service, Romesha moved to North Dakota, where his sister lived, to look for a job in the oil industry. He moved to Minot, North Dakota and purchased a 100-year-old, flood-damaged home that he is restoring himself.  He took a job at KS Industries, an oil field construction firm. Initially crewing a hydro excavation truck, he went through a driver’s training program and later began managing the crews of six other trucks.  He currently works as a field safety specialist for KS Industries.  His exploits during the firefight were later written about by journalist Jake Tapper in his book, The Outpost.

On 11 February 2013, he received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama.  He is the fourth living Medal of Honor recipient for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (following Salvatore Giunta, Leroy Petry, and Dakota Meyer), and the eleventh overall for these wars.

 

Medal of Honor citation:  Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on October 3, 2009. On that morning, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his comrades awakened to an attack by an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, employing concentrated fire from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small arms fire. Staff Sergeant Romesha moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action with the support of an assistant gunner. Staff Sergeant Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds. Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers. Staff Sergeant Romesha then mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle. With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter. While orchestrating a successful plan to secure and reinforce key points of the battlefield, Staff Sergeant Romesha maintained radio communication with the tactical operations center. As the enemy forces attacked with even greater ferocity, unleashing a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds, Staff Sergeant Romesha identified the point of attack and directed air support to destroy over 30 enemy fighters. After receiving reports that seriously injured Soldiers were at a distant battle position, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire to allow the injured Soldiers to safely reach the aid station. Upon receipt of orders to proceed to the next objective, his team pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming enemy fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of their fallen comrades. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers. His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty reflect great credit upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.

 

// S //  Barack Obama  President

 

The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.

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