GLENVILLE, N.Y. - Despite a massive explosion, and continuous Taliban small-arms fire, New York Army National Guard Sgt. Joshua Young rescued his platoon sergeant, rallied his troops, and continued his mission March 16, 2012, while serving in Afghanistan.
On Friday, July 19, 2013, Young's heroism was recognized with the award of the Bronze Star with V Device, for valor, at the Scotia-Glenville Armed Forces Reserve Center here.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michael Swezey, left, the commander of the 53rd Troop Command, New York Army National Guard congratulates Sgt. Joshua Young after he receives the Bronze Star with V device for valor during a ceremony at the Scotia-Glenville Armed Forces Reserve Center in Glenville, N.Y., July 19, 2013. Young was recognized for saving the life of a fellow Soldier while under continuous enemy fire March 16, 2012, in Afghanistan with an Explosive Ordnance Disposal battalion from Fort Drum, N.Y. Young is assigned to the 1108th Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo)
At the time Young, a resident of Perinton, N.Y., was serving with the Army's 760th Ordnance Battalion, based at Fort Drum, N.Y. He is currently assigned to the New York Army National Guard's 1018th Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), which is headquartered at the Reserve Center.
“It's weird, I'm not sure what all the hubbub is all about," said Young, referring to the recognition. "It happened a long time ago, and I would do it again. It'd be what you do."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised Young's actions in a written statement.
"Today we honor an individual who went to extraordinary lengths to protect and save the lives of his fellow soldiers," Cuomo said.
"At great personal risk, Sgt. Young not only carried his badly injured platoon sergeant to safety through enemy gunfire, but he also returned to the battlefield to successfully complete his mission," Cuomo added.
New York Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Michael Swezey, who presented Young with his medal, pointed out that while many soldiers serve and serve well, Young did something more.
"The military awards very few Bronze Star Medals for Valor, indicating that Josh demonstrated a level of extreme personal courage and selfless service,” Swezey said. "I am struck by the courage he displayed to protect his fellow soldiers."
On March 16, 2012, Young was attached to Company A, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed Attack Company, which was operating in Siah Choy, Afghanistan, in the area known to the military as Regional Command South. The unit is known as “Syke's Regulars,” a historic Army designation.
The company command had decided to blow up a strategic wall in the village of Manezai. The wall bordered a road that was used to resupply and reinforce Combat Outpost Siah Choy, where Young's company was located.
During the previous three months, the company had observed insurgents planting more than 60 improvised explosive devices (IED) along the road, using the wall as cover. With the wall gone, the company would be able to use their reconnaissance capabilities to stop the IED attacks.
The 3rd Platoon of the company was given the mission. Young was accompanying the platoon as the EOD team leader, tasked with placing the explosives and detonating them. Young and his team placed over 1,200 pounds of C4 explosives at points along the wall as they prepared to execute the mission.
About 15 minutes after the 3rd Platoon moved into place, 50 enemy fighters moved to locations north and east of the American soldiers and began firing AK-47s and mortar rounds at them. One of the mortar rounds detonated 400 pounds of C4 that had been placed along the wall at its northern end. The explosion of the C4 incapacitated the entire squad at that location, including the platoon sergeant.
Young was about 150 feet away from the blast, which picked him up and threw him backwards into a row of grapes, while debris rained down over him.
While the rest of the platoon sought cover to regroup from the shock of the explosion, Young sprinted across the open ground, through dust and settling debris, to assess any casualties.
He searched for and found the platoon sergeant 50 feet away from the center of the blast buried under debris. The platoon sergeant was suffering from massive internal trauma and had burns over 60 percent of his body.
Young ignored enemy fire and ran to find the platoon medic to begin treatment. He again moved through the open to find the aide and litter team accompanying the unit to bring them to the platoon sergeants location.
Young then volunteered to carry the platoon sergeant to the landing zone where the medevac helicopter was heading, despite the sporadic fire the platoon was still taking from the enemy.
After carrying the platoon sergeant to safety, Young returned to the battlefield to complete the wall's demolition, accomplishing the platoon's mission.
His award citation reads, "Sgt. Young demonstrated incredible personal courage and selfless service by risking his life on multiple occasions to save a soldier's life and complete the mission. Sgt. Young's valorous actions reflect great credit upon himself, Attack Company, the Syke's Regulars Battalion, the Arrowhead Stryker Brigade, Regional Command South, and the United States Army.”
Young, age 26, served in the active Army from 2007 to 2012 and joined the 1018th Ordnance Company (EOD) of the New York Army National Guard in August 2012.
Now he is studying chemistry at Monroe County Community College in Rochester, serving on the local volunteer fire department in Fairport, N.Y., and moving ahead with his life.
He still keeps in contact with the soldier he saved, although the sergeant lost both legs. That platoon sergeant is doing pretty well and learning to walk on his artificial legs, Young said.
The five-months of specialized explosive ordnance disposal training he received prior to deploying gave him the skills and the mindset he needed when the time came, Young said.
"It was second nature, it's what you do as a soldier," Young said.
But his mother, Kim Young, who attended the ceremony with Young's father, Tim, said her son needed to give himself more credit.
"We're extremely proud of Josh and his accomplishments. He never really told us a lot about the incident so we are learning about his actions today,” she said.
By U.S. Army National Guard Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo
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