Story Behind CMS Curtis Reid's Silver Star
by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Justin A. Naylor
April 8, 2021
Curtis Reid was 33 years old when his heart stopped.
happened in a dusty building southeast of Baghdad. He was surrounded
by Soldiers he loved.
“I watched him die,” recalls Lyndon
Kilcrease, then a newly-promoted Army specialist. “They started to
resuscitate him, and I remember Jones saying ‘Look, he’s dead.”
While this sounds like the end of Command Sgt. Major Curtis
Reid’s story, it was not. It was just a brief moment in an ongoing,
multi-decade career that has spanned numerous continents and has
touched the lives of hundreds of Soldiers.
While Reid now serves in a premiere leadership position
as the senior enlisted advisor for 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry
Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, he came from humble beginnings.
Like so many others before him, Reid joined the Army to get away
from his hometown and to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I always wanted to serve because my father- he was in the
military,” said Reid. His father was a Vietnam veteran with the U.S.
Reid grew up in the small, remote town of
Fitzgerald, Georgia, which lies about three hours south of Atlanta.
The town is located in dense pine forests and the last census put
the population at about 10,000 residents.
Reid entered the
service in 1994 as an infantryman. He and a group of others in his
training class were chosen to specialize and became mechanized
infantry, then known by the military occupation specialty code 11M.
Reid was attracted to the lifestyle of the infantry.
the first ones on the battlefield to close in with and destroy the
enemy,” he said. “That’s what lead me to wanting to be infantry.”
Reid remembers that the training at Fort Benning was grueling.
Although the base was only two and half hours from home, it felt
like a world away for him. He didn’t find out until completing his
training that his first assignment truly would take him to the other
side of the planet.
Reid arrived in Germany in the heart of
“Growing up in the South, I’d never really seen snow
before,” Reid recalls. “I was mesmerized and shocked.”
weather was not the only shock Reid would get upon arrival. He soon
found out he was bunking in a six-man barracks room with a communal
shower in the hallway for multiple rooms to share. Modern Soldiers
typically live in individual or two-person rooms. For the most part,
communal showers are a thing of the past.
“The Army was
really hard then,” said Reid. “You did something wrong and you would
get the crap smoked out of you.”
Reid recalls that the
leaders at this unit were tough and unbending in their adherence to
the Army standards.
“It really made me aware of how high my
standards needed to be, how disciplined I needed to be,” he said.
Reid carried on this hard-earned discipline as he moved
forward in his career. Soon, he moved into leadership positions and
was tasked with leading Soldiers on deployments around the world. He
moved around often over the next decade including stints in Korea,
Bosnia, Kosovo, the Czech Republic, Kuwait and Iraq. His travels
eventually brought him to 3rd Brigade, 3rd ID, at Kelley Hill on
Fort Benning, Georgia.
He soon deployed to Iraq with this
unit, and it was during this deployment that Reid’s life would
It was July 3, 2006. His unit had just
returned from an overnight air assault mission that involved
clearing insurgents out of a local village. Kilcrease remembers the
Soldiers returning to their base—Combat Outpost Cahill—around 5:00
“We were all bone tired,” he said. Most of the members
of the unit weren’t aware that a change occurred overnight that
would send the weary Soldiers back out into harm’s way later that
“We were supposed to leave the [combat outpost] and
head back to [Forward Operating Base] Hammer on the 4th of July to
re-fit,” said Reid. He said his company commander needed Reid’s unit
to head back to Hammer a day early, which was located about 50 miles
“So, we got ready and loaded up the Bradleys with the
dismounts,” remembers Reid.
With the dismounted Soldiers
loaded into the back of the vehicle, Reid told his driver to raise
the back ramp.
“The ramp didn’t raise, so I got out of the
Bradley and the driver got out,” Reid said. “We had to physically,
manually push the ramp up in order for the driver to lock it.”
First their mission to go for re-fit was bumped forward a day
and now the ramp on their vehicle was broken. Reid remembers
thinking this seemed like a sign.
With the ramp finally
locked in place, the line of vehicles departed COP Cahill and headed
toward FOB Hammer. Reid’s vehicle was the last in line and was
tasked with providing rear security. The 25mm cannon on his Bradley
faced toward the back of the vehicle.
“The back deck has a
cargo hatch,” Reid said. “Dismounts can get in and out of the cargo
deck, but if that barrel is blocking that cargo hatch, you can open
it but you can’t get out.”
Kilcrease was Reid’s driver that
day. For him, the day seemed much like any other, although he was
more tired than usual. The route was familiar to him, but he had
strange thoughts as he drove it this time.
“I looked over to
my left as I’m driving and there is this big open field and in my
head I wonder if a medevac could land there,” said Kilcrease,
referring to the medical evacuation helicopters that were commonly
used in Iraq to rescue wounded Soldiers.
“Once we hit a
certain checkpoint, we proceeded, and the next thing I know it’s
just a huge explosion; it shattered my helmet,” said Reid. “I just
remember calling out ‘IED, IED, IED’ and I looked over at my gunner
and he was knocked out, unconscious.”
Reid recalls that the
vehicles in front of him turned around immediately after the
explosion and medics rushed to his vehicle.
Then Staff Sgt. Curtis Reid's Bradley Fighting Vehicle burns after an explosively formed penetrator struck it southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, July 3rd, 2006. Reid, now a command sergeant major with 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, earned a Silver Star for his actions that day after rescuing numerous Soldiers from the vehicle. (U.S. Army
courtesy photo by Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Reid)
“I’m kind of in
shock and disarray and that’s when I pulled my gunner out and took
him to the ground,” Reid said. “The medics were already there on
scene. My driver had managed to get out of his hatch. He was hit
with shrapnel and was on fire.”
Kilcrease’s recollection of
the explosion was hazy.
“I remember us driving and then I
remember ‘boom’ and then there’s, like, a brief 30 seconds or a
minute that I was knocked out,” said Kilcrease. “I woke up and there
was just fire everywhere. The [explosively formed penetrator] went
off and it went through the fuel cell, then it went through the
engine, then it blew into the driver’s compartment right behind me.”
EFPs were a common weapon used by insurgents to penetrate the
thick armor of military vehicles. They work by focusing a weighted
piece of metal in an explosion and can cause high levels of
destruction on impact.
After Kilcrease woke up, he turned
around and looked in the area behind the driver’s seat, dubbed the
“I tried to release the back ramp so that the
guys in the back could get out,” said Kilcrease. “There’s a lever;
it’s the ramp lever. It releases the emergency hatch so you can push
the button to lower the ramp. After I turned around and saw the hell
hole was on fire, I grabbed the release. I tried to push the ramp
button down but all the electronics had been knocked out of the
Bradley, so nothing was working.”
With the ramp
malfunctioning, Kilcrease exited the burning vehicle. He was on fire
when he hit the ground and was tackled by a medic who put out the
Reid remembers watching the medics treat Kilcrease.
It was at this moment that he realized that the dismounts were
trapped inside with a malfunctioning ramp and the gun blocking the
top exit to the vehicle.
“I knew that if I didn’t do
anything, they would burn alive in there,” Reid said. “From that
point, I jumped back into the turret in my compartment. In the
Bradley, you control the turret in mechanical mode or electric mode;
I put everything in manual mode. Once I did that I was able to raise
the gun the barrel.”
Reid lifted the gun barrel to max
elevation and a Soldier in the back of the vehicle popped the hatch
“I jumped out of the turret to where the cargo
hatch was and opened up the cargo hatch all the way,” Reid said. “I
jumped into the hull to where the dismounts were in the back- where
they ride at. I took each individual out one by one and also the
Iraqi interpreter. Some of them were unconscious, some of them were
just confused from the explosion, so they didn’t have any idea what
After getting the last Soldier out of the vehicle,
Reid jumped off the burning Bradley. Hitting the ground is the last
thing he remembers.
“His adrenaline went out and he just
collapsed,” said Kilcrease.
Reid’s next memory is of waking up
in a small hospital. It was here where his heart stopped and the
medical team resuscitated him. The medics treated Kilcrease
“They’re scrubbing me down trying to control
all these burns and pulling shrapnel,” he said. “They put [Reid] on
a litter right in front of us. He quit breathing.”
resuscitated him and got him back,” Kilcrease said. “I can’t tell
you how I felt at the time. I was just sitting there watching a dude
that you kind of looked at as a father figure die.”
next stop was in Landstuhl, Germany, where a medical team worked to
stabilize him. The explosion ruptured his spleen, so the doctors
removed it. Once he was out of critical condition, he was moved to
Womack Army Hospital in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for recovery.
While the physical injuries were painful, the concussion
caused neurological injuries that last to this day.
to go through speech therapy, writing therapy, hand and eye
coordination therapy,” Reid said. “It was like a two-year rehab.
Sometimes I still have challenges with speaking.”
religious man, said the recovery made him question the things he
“I was questioning God, which is something I
thought I would never do,” Reid said. “I was asking why this
happened to me.”
Reid’s leadership presented him with the
Silver Star Medal during his recovery time at Womack. His
battalion’s senior noncommissioned officer came to visit him and
asked what he wanted to do next.
“I was like, ‘sergeant
major, I want to get back to my guys,’” he recalls. “He said no, and
that I needed to take care of myself. My boys were going to be
Reid’s recovery was grueling, but he said that his
faith, his family, and his love for the Soldiers he served with kept
him pushing to get better. While these injuries might have ended the
careers of other Soldiers, for Reid it was just a hurdle to
“I love being around Soldiers,” Reid said. “That’s
why I’m still doing what I do, because I love being around Soldiers
and taking care of Soldiers.”
It was this love of Soldiers
that carried Reid through another Iraq deployment with 3rd BCT, 3rd
ID in 2011. Although Reid left the unit shortly after this
deployment, he carried the legacy of his time there with him. The
Army deactivated 3rd BCT in 2016. Reid’s current unit, 1st Bn., 28th
Inf. Regt., is the last remaining 3rd ID unit on Fort Benning.
“Third Infantry Division is my heart,” Reid said. “I wouldn’t
want to deploy with any other organization than 3rd ID.”
said that the Soldiers who work with him now are among the best he’s
ever served with.
“We are an elite infantry organization and
we are ready to go anywhere that the U.S. needs us to go,” Reid
said. “I know that my Soldiers in this organization are fully
trained and prepared to do what the nation calls on us to do.”
Reid cherishes this time with his current unit, but says he will
never forget the memories he made with the Soldiers who were with
him on the day he earned his Silver Star.
“We are forever
linked because of what happened to us and I can’t think of any other
people I’d rather be linked to,” said Kilcrease.
America's Best | America's Greatest
Our Valiant Troops | Veterans |
Answering The Call |
Honoring The Fallen |
Don't Weep For Me |
Remember The Fallen |
Tears For Your Fallen |