SSG Romesha (rōm' ə shā) is receiving the award for actions during the controversial Battle of Kamdesh at Combat Outpost (COP) Keating in Afghanistan, which took place on 3 October 2009. At the time he was a section leader in a 53-man detachment of B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry as part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. This small outpost had an additional detachment (at least, at the beginning) of some 30 Afghan National Army (ANA) with their two Latvian Army advisors, Sergeant First Class Janis Lakins and Corporal Martins Dabolins. This small outpost, including a smaller observation post, was attacked by almost 400 enemy Anti-Afghan Forces (AAF) in an effort to wipe it out, and they almost succeeded.
(For some reason, I couldn't post a short video of a panorama of the imposing terrain around Keating, but it can be found here.)
All of them were involved to one degree or another with finding and moving their wounded comrades (some fatally) back to the aid station. SGT Brad Larson was instrumental in aiding and recovering six men.
To their credit, the air support assets ignored the political implications and blasted the Taliban hardened position in the mosque.
Captain Cordova, meanwhile, was busy attending to the medical and tactical needs of his aid station, and provides a compelling and illustrative account (pp 21-25). The aid station ultimately treated 43 US and Afghan casualties.
The Soldiers of B Troop demonstrated courage, bravery, and heroism as they inflicted over 150 casualties on enemy forces and reestablished their perimeter. In the process, the Soldiers embodied the Warrior Ethos and recovered all friendly casualties. As evening fell on the night of 3 October 2009, COP Keating remained solidly under US control and enemy forces had suffered a tactical defeat. Eight American Soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice defending their outpost and their fellow Soldiers.Those who gave their lives in battle were: SSG Justin T Gallegos, SGT Christopher T Griffin, SGT Joshua M Hardt, SGT Joshua J Kirk, SPC Stephan L Mace, SSG Vernon W Martin, SGT Michael P Scusa, and PFC Kevin C Thomson.
The mission for COP Keating during the rotation of B Troop was unclear to the Soldiers of B Troop. . . . [O]wing to the limited manpower and tactical reach off of the compound, the mission devolved into one of base defense and by mid-2009 there was no tactical or strategic value to holding the ground occupied by COP Keating. As a result, the chain of command decided to close the remote outpost as soon as it could. Originally scheduled for closure in July-August 2009, COP Keating's withdrawal was delayed when the assets required to backhaul the base supplies were diverted. . . . Similarly, ISR assets [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] that could have given the Soldiers at COP Keating better situational awareness of their operational environment were reprioritized . . .
The delayed closing of COP Keating is important as it contributed to a mindset of imminent closure that served to impede improvements in force protection to the COP. There were inadequate measures taken by the chain of command, resulting in an attractive target for enemy fighters. Over time, and without raising undue concern within the US intelligence system, the enemy conducted numerous probing attacks . . .
Compounding the situation for the Soldiers on COP Keating, intelligence assessments became desensitized to enemy actions over several months. . . . [T]he perception prevailed that reports of massing enemy forces were exaggerated and improbable. The focus became the enemy's most likely, rather than his most dangerous course of action.
Update: The medal has been awarded, with the accompanying official citation:
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
"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.
"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.
Update: Staff Sergeant Ty Carter has been awarded the Medal of Honor as well.