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Soldiers who served with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, were presented with awards for their actions in Afghanistan in the fall of 2013 during a ceremony April 8 in McGinnis-Wickam Hall's Marshall Auditorium.
In all, more than 30 awards were presented, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Valor Device, Purple Heart, and Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device. The Silver Star is the third-highest military combat decoration.
Lt. Col. Patrick Ellis, commander of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, both spoke in praise of the Soldiers' dedication and bravery.
"Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,' and the individuals being recognized today have absolutely shown where they stand in times of challenge or controversy," Ellis said. "It is truly humbling to be a part of an organization where this kind of behavior is more common than uncommon."
The majority of the awards were presented for actions during operations to capture a high-value target on Oct. 5-6 in the Zhari District of Kandahar Province, and during operations on Sept. 26 in another area of Afghanistan. The Oct. 5 operations resulted in the loss of four Soldiers.
Spc. Samuel Crockett, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 28th EOD at Fort Bragg, N.C., was part of the Oct. 5 operations. He was the only Soldier in last week's ceremony to be awarded the Silver Star, which he received for clearing paths for his teammates through dangerous areas.
According to Crockett's award citation, he and his teammates entered a compound where their target, a Taliban leader, was believed to be located. The individual fled after the Soldiers arrived, and others in the compound detonated suicide vests, leading to casualties. Crockett helped clear a path in a brownout for his other teammates to continue their mission, and he later braved an improvised explosive device-laden area to retrieve the remains of the fallen Soldiers as well as numerous pieces of sensitive equipment.
"It was an honor," Crockett said. "It's always a privilege to work with these guys."
Staff Sgt. Aaron Armold, a native of Medway, Ohio, was also among those awarded last week. The Ranger assigned to 3-75 received the Bronze Star with Valor Device and the Purple Heart for a traumatic brain injury sustained from an IED blast during the same operation in which Crockett took part. Arnold chose to remain on the ground in a dangerous area with the four fallen Soldiers rather than evacuate with the rest of his squad.
"It made me proud to see my brothers up there today," Arnold said. "I'm proud that I'm part of an organization that prides itself on being professional."
He credited the actions of his fellow Rangers with preventing further loss of life and injury, and said that everything seemed to go by quickly at the time.
"A lot of brave things went on that night," Arnold said. "You think you'd like to act a certain way in a situation, and I think that everyone acted the way they would have liked to act that night."