Air Force Band of Brothers

A long year has finally come to an end.  We are still spending our last days in Ali Al Salem AB, Kuwait waiting for the “Freedom Bird” to transport us to BWI Airport.  Here we will say our goodbyes and each of us will take a different connecting flight back to our homes and to our families who are anxiously awaiting our arrival.  It will be a bitter sweet moment when this happens.  It has been a long year we’ve shared together.

Helping to rescue Afghan family after a bad car accident at J-Bad Pass in June 2009.

When you live, sleep, and eat with a group of men over a year’s period of time, you develop a bond that is not only professional but personal as well.  These are the same team members you entrust your life to when going on a mission outside the wire.  But the bond my Air Force brothers shared was rather unique and I never experienced this type of closeness on any other deployments in the past.  Prior to this deployment, most of us had never met or knew each other.  We were assembled as a team at Fort Riley, Kansas.  Of the 10 personnel featured in the photograph, 8 of us were on the same team and shared the same open-bay sleeping quarters and trained together as a team.

My ETT Team displaying their Bronze Star Medals.

When you have this type of an arrangement, it’s hard not to learn about the personal lives, ambitions, and goals of your fellow members.  Even though we had a rank structure to include officer and enlisted, we established a strong bond of unity and personal friendship.  Being assigned to the Army had its challenges, but we learned the Army procedures and before long, we were conducting our own missions using Army vehicles and weaponry.  Our journeys took us outside the wire to some very remote villages.  Whether you were a gunner, driver, or truck commander, everyone played an integral role and you learned to trust each person with your life and theirs in return.  Unlike many teams who struggle with the forming and storming stage, our team quickly advanced past the norming stage and moved into the performing phase.  Bottom line:  We were damn good at what we did and efficient at how we did it!

Traveling through the Uzbin valley.

Our primary mission was to mentor the Afghan National Army (ANA) on logistics processes.  First, we had to understand the basic Afghan supply system patterned after the Army’s antiquated supply processes.  Then we were expected to advise our ANA counterparts on the intricacies of this logistics process.  Not only did we succeed, but collectively we excelled at our first camp with our ANA counterparts.  Our ANA Kandak was awarded the Minister of Defense’s Capability Milestone 1, which is the highest rating a unit can receive and the warehouse area was lauded as “best seen to date.”  So this was testament to what our team could achieve.

Jorga (village meeting) in Yakdand Mountains.

Not only did we accompany our ANA counterparts on logistics missions, we went on joint humanitarian missions to some secluded villages nestled in the Hindu Kush Mountains.  While on these journeys we saw poppy fields as far as the eyes could see and crude mud brick houses without electricity.  I affectionately called this “driving through the Old Testament area.”  We saw towering mountains and climbed a few along the way too.  It truly was an experience!!  Despite being exposed to the perils of rockets, mortars, RPGs, small arms fire, IED devices, and planned Taliban ambushes, we came out of this deployment unscathed.

Capt Matthew Freeman memorial Camp Blackhorse Aug. 2009

Unfortunately, we attended the memorial services of our camp mates and mourned for those who had their life taken by the insurgents we are at war with.  These men and women are the true heroes and their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

In the end, the US Army recognized our accomplishments as well and awarded my entire team Bronze Star Medals for “Exceptionally meritorious service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom … personal courage and commitment to mission accomplishment in a combat zone, under the most extreme of circumstances, greatly contributed to the success of Operation Enduring Freedom.”  What makes this medal so unique (without being self-serving) is that this is an Air Force team who was given an Army mission and performed remarkably in a combat zone.  I don’t know how many Air Force teams can make this same claim because it’s truly a unique accomplishment.  In fact, as the Army migrates to the “partnership concept”, the

We helped treat this little girl during a village medical mission in June 2009; her nose was rotting away from Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis disease.

Embedded Training Teams (ETT) will disappear.  We were one of the last Air Force ETT teams left in Afghanistan and can proudly mark our place in history.

Tomorrow we fly our final leg of this journey together and then will go our separate ways when we land in Baltimore. It’s not a final goodbye because I have a feeling sometime in the future we will see each other again.  But this will be the last time we serve in this capacity as a team.  To my Air Force Band of Brothers, it was an honor and a privilege to serve with you.  I wish you all the best and to your families who are anxiously awaiting your return.  We can be proud of what we did and let us never forget, freedom is not free.

SPC Kit Lowe Receives Bronze Star in D.C.

Photo courtesy: WSAV-TV/Andrew Davis

From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Here is a link to the first video via Blackberry from SPC Kit Lowe’s Bronze Star Ceremony earlier today in Washington, D.C. (Video courtesy of WSAV-TV in Savannah)

SPC Kit Lowe Receives Bronze Star in D.C. | WSAV.

This second link is to the much longer in-depth television story that aired later in the day:

WSAV-TV: SPC Kit Lowe receives Bronze Star

This third link is to a story about the status of Kit’s medical recovery and his future plans:

WSAV-TV: Specialist Christopher Lowe Recovering After Being Injured Saving Fellow Soldier

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Spc. Christopher M. “Kit” Lowe receives the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device during a ceremony in Doss Memorial Hall at Walter Reed Feb. 26, 2010. Lowe is recovering at Walter Reed from wounds he received as a result of actions he took during the combat operations in Afghanistan. (Photo by Craig Coleman, Walter Reed Public Affairs)

Guardsman earns bronze star with ‘V’ device

By Craig Coleman
Walter Reed Public Affairs

WASHINGTON  — A Soldier being treated at Walter Reed for wounds sustained in Afghanistan received the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device during a ceremony here in Doss Memorial Hall Feb. 26.

Spc. Christopher M. “Kit” Lowe, a forward observer with the 1-108th Cavalry Regiment, received the award for actions he took during combat operations in the Alasai Valley, Afghanistan.

Lowe, a six-year veteran of the Georgia National Guard, was on a combat mission with the 48th Battle Training Brigade when he heard gunfire on the roof of the building he was searching. Lowe knew then Marine Capt. Matthew Freeman, whom he considered a friend, and the unit’s medic were on that roof and in trouble. Lowe scrambled up a ladder to the roof and saw Freeman had been hit, with bullets still incoming.

“My friend was shot and I needed to get to him,” Lowe recalled.

Lowe crawled across the roof to the spot where Freeman was lying, bleeding and unresponsive. “I went to go get him, and I got hit,” Lowe said.

As Lowe was pulling the medic to the ground, Lowe was hit by machine gun fire in the upper right thigh.

“It ruined a perfectly good uniform,” Lowe quipped. “It was surreal. I never thought I was going to die, even after I was shot. I didn’t realize the extent of my wounds. I thought I’d be back at work the next day.”

With shots still incoming, Lowe scanned the area. “When you come under fire you want to know where it’s coming from,” Lowe said. “What I was trying to do was find out where [the enemy fire] was coming from so I could fire on the position.”

He discovered the enemy was shooting from a house built into the side of a mountain, so that indirect fire would be ineffective. “You can land mortars on it, but all you’d be doing is beating up a mountain,” Lowe said. “You have to hit the house.”

Although injured, Lowe returned fire until reinforcements arrived in a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle to neutralize the target.

“I really hate public speaking,” Lowe told the audience assembled to witness his award. “But I’d better get used to it if I want to be president.”

Lowe said of Freeman, the Marine who died, “He was my friend. I wish they didn’t have to give his Purple Heart posthumously. I did what I was supposed to do. I did what I was trained to do. It reflects well on the Georgia National Guard.”

“My main concern was Capt. Freeman,” Lowe said. “Capt. Freeman was killed, and I needed to get him and the medic with him off [the roof].”

Col. Stephen Joyce, commander of the 48th Battle Training Brigade at the time of Lowe’s actions, said his behavior was exemplary. “It’s everything that’s right about America, and everything that’s right about the Army.”

First Lt. Matt Smith, a member of the unit who earlier received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in combat two months before Lowe’s actions, presented the Bronze Star with “V” Device to Lowe.

“I was intensely proud of him and all the other Soldiers involved,” Smith said. “Cavalry have a reputation as above average Soldiers, and his actions exemplified that.”

Lowe’s thoughts still remain with his fallen comrade. “The only thing I can say is that I’m sorry. He meant the world to me in the short time I knew him and I wish there was more I could do for him.”

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Here is the text of the Citation as it appears on the award:

THE BRONZE STAR MEDAL
WITH ‘V’ DEVICE
Specialist Christopher M. Lowe
1-108th Cavalry Regiment

For valorous and meritorious actions wile engaged in direct combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom on 7 August 2009.
Specialist Lowe’s courage and selfless dedication in a combat zone, under the most extreme of circumstances, greatly contributed to the fight against the War on Terrorism.  Specialist Lowe’s actions reflect great credit upon himself, Task Force Phoenix, Combined Joint Task Force-82 and the United States Central Command.

SPC Kit Lowe with his mother Sandi and Lt. Matt Smith during an interview.

Citation that was read during the ceremony:

For gallantry and acts of heroism while performing combat advisory duties under enemy fire in the Shpee Valley, Kapisa Province (Regional Command-East) during Operation Brest Thunder. Spec Lowe demonstrated unwavering courage, exemplary professional skill, and daring initiative in the face of heavy enemy fire.  His actions led to a life saving medical evacuation and another medical evacuation ensuring a fallen warrior’s remains did not fall into the hands of the enemy.  His actions allowed supporting forces to locate and destroy over 20 enemy fighters including a senior Taliban commander.  These acts of heroism and disregard for his own personal safety reflect great credit upon himself, the 1st squadron, 108th cavalry, and the United States Army.

SPC Lowe shakes hands with singer Brittini Black who sang the National Anthem at the ceremony.

Wounded SPC Kit Lowe to receive Bronze Star

SPC Christopher "Kit" Santiago Lowe in Afghanistan last summer.

Rex’s can’t post today due to extremely poor Internet connectivity so I am using the space to update everyone on the recovery of Rex’s friend and former camp mate SPC Christopher “Kit” Santiago Lowe. As many of the readers of this blog will remember Kit was wounded in August in a Taliban ambush in Kapisa Province (you can read about the ambush here).

SPC Lowe recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Sept. 09

Kit has been recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and underwent major surgery in January to repair his right leg (he had no feeling below the knee after being shot).

Unfortunately the results of the surgery were less than promising. Although the surgeons tried to repair the nerve damage they could only do part of the needed grafts. The

SPC Lowe with Lt Gen John Allen, USMC, Deputy Commander, US Central Command, Aug. 2009

tibial nerve was grafted; this nerve controls sensation on the bottom of the foot.  It also may give Kit control to ‘push off’ with his leg and foot and the ability to move his foot side to side to some degree.

The peroneal nerve was not grafted because the damage was too extensive.  This nerve controls the ability to lift up the foot. Nerves grow from the site of injury to the ‘end of the line’– so they will need to grow from his low thigh area to his toes (roughly 2-3 years).

What does this all mean?

Kit has spent about 3 weeks in his immobilizer and he’s in a substantial amount of pain.  As you may know nerve pain is intense and hard to

During theraphy at WRAMC.

describe.  What will be difficult is the waiting as the nerve grows back~ 1 cm per month~ which is excruciatingly slow.

Good news is he can walk with a brace.  He will be able to drive a car, but it must be adaptive and he will have to learn to do that.

Needless to say this is not what Kit wanted. He wanted guaranteed full recovery. He is very worried about the career he wants so very much as an officer in the military, knowing that the ability to run or feel sensation in his lower leg may never return.

On the brighter side, Kit (who is a huge dog lover) will soon get a service dog to assist him with being aware of issues

Kit gives his Purple Heart to his old high school, Benedictine Military School in Savannah earlier this year ~ photo courtesy of WSAV-TV

(infections) in his leg.  He is still planning to continue his military career after completing his education at Georgia Southern.  He will be transferred home to the WTU at Ft Stewart very soon.  And this Thursday he will be presented with a Bronze Star V device for his action on that fateful day in August that changed so many lives.

UPDATE FROM KIT VIA TEXT MESSAGE ON 2-23-2010: “I can feel in two of toes on my right foot.”

Note: I’ll be sure to post pictures and video from the Bronze Star ceremony as soon as they are available on Thursday. And we’ll share more details about the feeling returning to his injured foot then too. What wonderful news!!!

Update on SPC Lowe and memorial for Capt. Freeman

SPC Christopher "Kit" Lowe

SPC Christopher "Kit" Lowe

SPC Christopher “Kit” Lowe is recovering from his bullet wound.  So if you want to cheer him up and would like to send him a card or a greeting, please send them to the following address which he and his family released:

SPC Christopher Lowe
Room 5737
Walter Reed Medical Center
6900 Georgia Ave NW
Washington, DC  20307

Marine Captain Matthew Freeman

Marine Captain Matthew Freeman

Tomorrow in honor of another fallen warrior, I will post pictures from Capt Matthew Freeman’s memorial service held at my camp.  The military memorial service was held today honoring this fallen comrade.

From SMSgt Temple’s wife Liisa: We received a request from a family friend of the Freemans to post this link to the documents announcing Capt. Freeman’s Bronze Star for Valor.

Capt. Matt Freeman Bronze Star documents

The friend, CAPT Scott Pugh, USN (ret), writes:

I have posted a copy of Matt’s combat award for valor online so that others can see it at the link provided.

It says:
– Matt was a C130 pilot based in Okinawa but he volunteered for this deployment.
– He was on the ground just 2 weeks but he volunteered for this patrol in order to coordinate air support if required.
– Once under fire, as the senior man present, he went to the rooftop of the building where his 5 man unit had taken cover in order to gain a better vantage point to locate and engage the enemy that had his unit pinned down.
– There he encountered a nearby Taliban fighter with an RPG who could have taken out the building containing his unit.
– He killed that insurgent drawing deadly fire upon himself from other Taliban forces.
– Every other member of his patrol survived the fight.

There’s not much more anyone could have done than what Matt did.

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