The latest soldier to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor, Captain William D Swenson, is a credit to his country and I thank him for his heroism and gallantry.
I also thank him for his doggedness in pursuing disciplinary actions to those who he felt were responsible for getting soldiers killed. A number that would be higher if not for the actions of Captain Swenson.
The official Medal of Honor Citation for Captain Swenson:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Captain William D. Swenson distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as embedded advisor to the Afghan National Border Police, Task Force Phoenix, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan in support of 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on September 8, 2009.
On that morning, more than 60 well-armed, well-positioned enemy fighters ambushed Captain Swenson’s combat team as it moved on foot into the village of Ganjgal for a meeting with village elders. As the enemy unleashed a barrage of rocket-propelled grenade, mortar and machine gun fire, Captain Swenson immediately returned fire and coordinated and directed the response of his Afghan Border Police, while simultaneously calling in suppressive artillery fire and aviation support. After the enemy effectively flanked Coalition Forces, Captain Swenson repeatedly called for smoke to cover the withdrawal of the forward elements. Surrounded on three sides by enemy forces inflicting effective and accurate fire, Captain Swenson coordinated air assets, indirect fire support and medical evacuation helicopter support to allow for the evacuation of the wounded.
Captain Swenson ignored enemy radio transmissions demanding surrender and maneuvered uncovered to render medical aid to a wounded fellow soldier. Captain Swenson stopped administering aid long enough to throw a grenade at approaching enemy forces, before assisting with moving the soldier for air evacuation. With complete disregard for his own safety, Captain Swenson unhesitatingly led a team in an unarmored vehicle into the kill zone, exposing himself to enemy fire on at least two occasions, to recover the wounded and search for four missing comrades.
After using aviation support to mark locations of fallen and wounded comrades, it became clear that ground recovery of the fallen was required due to heavy enemy fire on helicopter landing zones. Captain Swenson’s team returned to the kill zone another time in a Humvee. Captain Swenson voluntarily exited the vehicle, exposing himself to enemy fire, to locate and recover three fallen Marines and one fallen Navy corpsman. His exceptional leadership and stout resistance against the enemy during six hours of continuous fighting rallied his teammates and effectively disrupted the enemy’s assault.
Captain William D. Swenson’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Task Force Phoenix, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division and the United States Army.
That’s some impressive stuff.
But it was Captain Swenson’s actions after the fight that showed another kind of bravery that President Obama is sorely lacking.
You see, despite his heroic actions in saving the life of his fellow servicemen, four American’s lost their lives as well as a number of Afghan border police allies. Instead of keeping his head down and chalking up the loss of life to “shit happens”, Captain Swenson once again braved a firestorm and demanded accountability. After the fight Swenson complained vigorously that many of his calls for assistance were rejected by his superior officers.
Captain Swenson could have just let it be and it would have blown over in time but he believed that the men who lost their lives because of inaction deserved a reckoning.
The Army’s response at first was to “lose” his initial medal nomination.
Captain Swenson, showing the same rugged tenacity that earned him the medal whether he received it or not, continued to press the issue and eventually two Army officers were reprimanded for being “inadequate and ineffective” and for “contributing directly to the loss of life” following an investigation into the day’s events.
I wish President Obama had the same moral courage and sense of duty that Captain Swenson has.
Because Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyronne Woods deserve to know why they had to lose their lives when their calls for help were ignored in Benghazi.