15 May 2012

Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Rangers hold rare public ceremony to celebrate service, sacrifice

Decorations await 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment troops at their unit's combat awards ceremony in Tacoma, Wash., May 10, 2012. Photo: David Poe, Northwest Guardian.

TACOMA, Wash. (May 15, 2012) -- The U.S. Army Ranger story is typically a closed book, but Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Rangers opened the pages of their latest chapter for an evening last week. The South Sound community had the rare opportunity to join 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, in recognizing its own at the Tacoma Dome, May 10.

More than 50 Rangers received commendations, which ranged from Army Commendation medals to a Silver Star for combat and non-combat action going back to 2005. The battalion also received two Valorous Unit awards for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, 2-75 Rngr. has deployed for Overseas Contingency Operations 14 times. Their most recent Operation Enduring Freedom deployment concluded in December. During the five-month rotation they conducted 475 combat operations where they lost four rangers and one attached Soldier.

Staff Sergeant Sean Keough received the Silver Star for courage under fire in Afghanistan last year. The Silver Star is America's third highest combat decoration.

Last fall, Keough, serving as a Ranger rifleman and squad leader, was part of a joint task force conducting a raid on a Taliban compound. When a comrade was injured during the assault, Keough positioned himself between the wounded Ranger and insurgent fire so that other task force members could administer medical aid.

After he and another teammate eliminated a charging insurgent, he was hit by enemy fire and still held his position between the enemy and his downed teammate as his squad radioed for a medevac. Refusing treatment throughout a long firefight, he continued his integral part of the mission, helping the team to overtake the enemy compound eight hours later. He also received a Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered during that engagement.

Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, traveled from his Fort Bragg, N.C., headquarters for the event. He said to be a part of a night when so many Rangers were honored for heroic deeds was awe inspiring.

"That convergence -- that range of valor is extraordinary," he said, "and by itself should tell us what it means to be a Ranger, and to be a Ranger battalion."

Lt. Col. David Hodne, 2-75 Rngr. commander, said the openness of the ceremony was a reminder that though Ranger operational missions are shrouded in security, it's important to touch base with a public that might know the legend of the Army Ranger, yet never have the opportunity to shake his hand.

"The community is insulated from the Rangers when we're only in our compound, and they are our biggest fans and supporters," he said, "so when you talk about getting a perspective on what these great Rangers are doing, there's no better way to do it."

Hodne also said any benefit to the community was matched by appreciation from his ranks.

"After now more than 10 years of war, for families to celebrate amongst themselves -- to do this in isolation -- they've done that for years," he said. "Over time it's difficult to continue when you think you're alone in your effort in fighting the war. These men get up every day and do the hard jobs -- without complaint."

Rangers from 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, stand in formation at their unit's combat awards ceremony in Tacoma, Wash., May 10, 2012. Photo: David Poe, Northwest Guardian.

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