JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, WA – More than 150 service members in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were honored with awards, May 19, at the Ranger Battalion Memorial. The awards recognized the efforts in their most recent deployment from October 2016 to February 2017 in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel.
I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky and 2nd Ranger Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ken Burgess presented a Silver Star — the third-highest military combat decoration for actions while engaged with an enemy — to Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Leach.
Five Bronze Stars with Valor were awarded to Staff Sgt. Robert Burgess, Staff Sgt. Timothy Campbell, Sgt. Kevin Hanley, Staff Sgt. Michael Imboden and Sgt. Jacob Ponczkowski.
Hanley was also among the six that were awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor along with Sgt. Dominic Carabajal, Sgt. Roderick Coday, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Marinellie, Sgt. Christopher Newell and Staff Sgt. Andrew Ross.
Leach received a lot of attention during the ceremony, but said he preferred not being in the spotlight.
“I do appreciate coming out here and supporting all of my men,” Leach said. “It made me very proud to see all of them who served with me get rewarded for their actions.”
The awards were presented for actions involving an incident that was part of a joint task force raid against a commander of the Islamic State group, Jan. 1.
Leach was exposed to AK-47 fire and hand grenades within the compound. He suffered injuries to his left leg, hip and arm as well as the left side of his neck. He continued to hold his ground to allow two other Rangers to exit the compound. He also saved the life of a wounded Afghan soldier.
“We treat them as we treat each other,” Leach said. “We protect each other and do the same with them. It’s a two-way street.”
Leach said it was his 12th deployment in four years between Iraq and Afghanistan. With 13 years of Army experience, Leach said he doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon. In fact, the Bremerton-native hopes to remain with the 2-75 Ranger Battalion as long as possible.
Although receiving the Silver Star from Burgess was a great moment for his wife and two children to see, Leach said he was more appreciative of the overall ceremony.
“All of those guys on that row were with me on that night and several other nights,” Leach said. “It was more about them.”
There were an additional 28 Bronze Star Medals awarded, along with 85 Joint Service Commendation Medals and 54 Joint Service Achievement Medals. All were honored in front of their peers and families.
“I know everyone shares in the pride I have in their efforts,” Burgess said.