FORT BENNING, GA – In duel ceremonies March 16, Rangers of 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were honored for their sacrifice, acts of valor and their physical prowess.
The Staff Sgt. Jason S. Dahlke/Pfc. Eric W. Hario Combat Readiness Training Facility was dedicated to two life-long athletes who were killed Aug. 29, 2009, of wounds sustained when they were shot by enemy forces while conducting combat operations in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Dahlke, 29, and Hario, 19, served together in 2nd Platoon, Company A, and were both known for their physical capabilities and natural athleticism.
“This building and the two men we honor here I think are a perfect match of providing a lasting tribute and an inspiration to others,” said Col. Michael Foster, 1/75 Ranger commander. “Amongst other skills, Rangers have always placed a premium on physical fitness – how appropriate, and unsurprising, that we name this facility in honor of Staff Sgt. Dahlke and Pfc. Hario; they were Rangers from the same squad; Rangers who worked out and did PT together; Rangers who fought, and ultimately died together; Rangers who were both notable athletes in their own right.”
The Dahlke-Hario Combat Readiness Training Facility includes the latest in comprehensive physical training equipment, which, according to their commander, will help the Rangers better prepare for the requirements of missions Rangers face, from intense cold to intense heat and in the harshest terrain on earth.
“As our knowledge of the specific requirements of fitness increase, so has our understanding of how best to prepare,” said Foster. “The days of pushups, sit ups, pulls ups and a run just don’t cut it anymore… Today, you’re much more likely to see Rangers in PT flipping tires, swinging kettle bells and executing burpees as you are anything else. This new Combat Readiness Training Facility provides us a state-of-the-art, all-weather location to conduct that training 24 hours a day.”
Present at the dedication were members of the Dahlke and Hario families, Adm. William McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, a Ranger with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Ranger Regiment, who is the second living Medal of Honor Recipient from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a ceremony later that day, two benches that are now part of the 1/75 Ranger Memorial were dedicated to Staff Sgt. Kevin Pape and Sgt. Maj. Jack Schmidt.
Pape was a Ranger with the 1/75 who was killed by enemy forces, Nov. 16, 2010, in Konar Province, Afghanistan; Schmidt was a Ranger who was paralyzed during a training jump in 1975, and died four years later of a heart attack.
Pape’s wife, Amelia, and daughter, Anneka, now 5, unveiled his bench, and Schmidt’s daughter, Donna Schmidt Neal, and her husband, Barry, unveiled his bench.
In a Battalion Valorous Awards Ceremony, 80 Rangers were honored for their acts in combat in the last two years. Among the awards given were ten Silver Stars, the military’s third highest award for valor, 27 Bronze Stars with Valor and 16 Purple Hearts. According to Foster, the acts of these Rangers contributed in no small part to the battalion’s success in their last deployment, in which they conducted 900 missions and killed or captured more than 2,000 insurgents – yet none of the awardees seeks individual recognition.
“It feels good to be recognized, but it’s not really about individualism here – it’s about the collective group,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Eiermann, Company D, who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions May 19, 2010, when, during a coordinated attach involving multiple insurgent fighters and countless rounds of indirect fire, he entered a known minefield in order to extract two critically wounded Soldiers. “It’s an honor to stand with these Rangers every day.”
Two families were present to accept posthumous awards of valor for their loved ones. Sgt. Martin Lugo, who was killed in combat operations Aug. 19, 2010, in Afghanistan, was awarded the Silver Star; and Sgt. Alessandro Plutino, who was killed in action Aug. 8, 2011, in Afghanistan, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor and the Army Commendation Medal.
“It is sometimes difficult to appreciate the magnitude of their individual accomplishments,” McRaven said before pinning the medals on the Rangers. “The men standing before me, most of them would say they were ‘doing their job.’ But 100 years from now, Rangers from 1/75th will be talking about this generation of Soldiers – they will be recounting your incredible missions, your unparalleled bravery and your unselfish acts of heroism. To say that your accomplishments have been historic is an understatement; your accomplishments have been legendary, and they will live on in every Ranger that passes through this battalion.”