WASHINGTON - Former Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha loved the
Army. He loved serving. He loved his men. He loved the pride
and the honor and the sense of purpose. His grandfather had
served in World War II, his father in Vietnam, and they had
raised him to serve his country. But a few years ago, his
commitment to the military was ending, and like many service
members, he had a big decision to make.
Medal of Honor Recipient Clint Romesha; his wife, Tammy; and,
children, Gwen, Dessi and Colin in January 2013. (Photos courtesy of
Clinton L. Romesha and combined by USA Patriotism!) Note: Clint
Romesha calls Tammy his moral compass, and said that without her
strength, support and independence, he wouldn't have been able to
concentrate on the battlefield enough to help save Combat Outpost
Keating from being overrun by about 300 insurgents on Oct. 3, 2009.
He had done
tours in both Kosovo and Korea, deployed to Iraq twice and
had just survived an especially grueling and violent
assignment in Afghanistan at Combat Outpost Keating with
Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th
Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
was a rather primitive camp in a tiny valley surrounded by
towering mountains in Nuristan province, only a handful of
miles from the Pakistan border.
After almost five
months of daily attacks, about 300 insurgents overran the
approximately 50-man outpost on Oct. 3, 2009, killing eight
soldiers and wounding 22, including Romesha, who was
peppered with shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade.
Romesha led the effort to retake Keating – actions for
which he was awarded the Medal of Honor in a Feb. 11,
2013, White House ceremony – but it had been close, much too
Unlike many soldiers, Romesha hadn't suffered
any lasting effects. He didn't have nightmares or flashbacks
or anything he couldn't work through by talking to a battle
buddy, but he couldn't escape the sense that his luck might
be running out. That next flag-draped coffin at Dover Air
Force Base, Del., might be his.
His wife Tammy
worried too. After his first deployment to Iraq, she had
learned to avoid the news and stay busy, but that October,
another wife told Tammy she had heard their men were in
Romesha could go weeks without calling home
while deployed, because he knew Tammy had everything under
control at and it was much easier if he just focused on the
mission at hand.
“That really helps out, knowing
that you've got someone strong back at home that you don't
have to worry about that stuff and you can concentrate on
your mission,” Romesha said. “Her ability to be a strong,
independent woman, to take care of the family and to take
care of business back here, gave me the ability to take care
of business over there with my head in the game, not
thinking about what's going on back here in the States.”
That could be hard for Tammy, but she understood, and
she didn't want to distract him. This time, however, as she
waited four agonizing days for a phone call or worse, a
knock on her door, she told herself that no news was good
news. She even told her neighbor to watch her house when she
had to leave.
He finally called to tell her she was
fine, which was all Tammy really cared about. She didn't
hear the full story until months later when he returned
home. When she finally did, it scared her all over again.
“To me, it's like, ‘How the hell did you survive
this time?'” she recalled. “I know he's great at his job,
but I guess I didn't realize how great he is at his job.
He's really good. He has the ability to prioritize and
compartmentalize his feelings, his job. He does what he
needs to do at that moment and I can totally give him credit
for that one."
“But my end? My end I'm always
thinking, ‘Oh my God. I feel sorry for the families that
lost soldiers,'” Tammy said.
She didn't really want
to go through that again, but she knew how important the
Army was to him. It was his decision, but Romesha didn't
really want to put her through it again either.
had always volunteered for deployments and hard assignments
and said he realized he “was being selfish and not being
fair” to Tammy and their two daughters. (The high school
sweethearts later had a son as well.) He said he was
“putting them more or less on the back burner of life, so I
made the decision that I would like to be more of a family
man, be around a little more often.”
It was time, he
decided, to move on, to find something else to do with his
life. Romesha went through the Army Career and Alumni
Program, noting “the military has a great system in place to
place Soldiers into future employment.”
believed finding a new job was his own responsibility,
however. He had to do it for himself. He had to be
proactive. So when he heard there were a lot of jobs in the
oil industry in North Dakota, he was interested. His sister
and her husband were already up there. The jobs paid well,
they said. He didn't need experience, either, although his
experience as a noncommissioned officer impressed the
company that ultimately hired him.
Kevin Small, the
president and chief executive officer of KS Industries, and
Romesha's boss, appreciates veterans' work ethics for
several reasons: Veterans follow instructions, they don't
need a lot of training, they have integrity, they're
dependable and they aren't afraid of hard work.
said, “It really ties to the discipline. When a service
member – Clint, for instance - comes to work for us, they
truly understand as we try to lay out rules, policies,
regulations, things that we have to do in some type of
sequence. They follow them very, very well, (and that's
crucial, because) in the type of business we're in, there's
a tremendous amount of risk.”
So Romesha and Tammy
moved their young family from Fort Carson, Colo., to Minot,
N.D., and bought a flood-damaged house in need of
renovation. He might have to drive 90 miles each way to get
to work and spend weekends working on the house, but he'd be
home every night. He could spend time with Tammy – so far
they'd spent most of their 10-odd years of marriage apart –
and he could watch his kids grow up.
He started out
as a swapper – the “guy who rides in a seat and operates the
wand” – on a hydro excavation truck, “basically a
high-pressure washer and a vacuum on a semi truck so you can
do non-mechanical digging to locate live (oil) lines,”
KS Industries then put him
through its driver's training program, and within months he
was in charge of scheduling, educating and coaching the
crews of five other trucks.
“And then the safety
manager of the company, I guess, had had an eye on me for
awhile,” he continued, “kind of seeing the traits the Army
had given me – knowing how to enforce standards, follow
policies and procedures, understand standard operating
procedures – and had basically scouted me out to see if I'd
switch out to the role of a field safety professional. All
the skills that a field safety specialist has are the same
ones the military gives NCOs. We do the quality control. We
take care of soldiers, or now employees. We make sure
they're wearing their protective equipment when they're
doing hazardous jobs and tasks, just like the military has
risk assessments. We ensure policies are being completed ...
so people don't have injuries, just like the military has
troop-leading procedures to make sure things get followed in
a safe and efficient way.”
He's good at it, Small
said, very good. He was impressed with Romesha before he
heard about the Medal of Honor. Now, he's also honored to
have Romesha working for him. He'd never met a Medal of
Honor recipient before, and certainly never imagined he'd
have one as an employee.
“I was kind of
dumbfounded,” when he heard what Romesha had done, he
“As far as I'm concerned, it's the
greatest achievement any human could ever be rewarded with.
... He went beyond and beyond the call of duty and that's why
he's being honored. And I'll tell you what, I am just
grateful to have him as part of our organization,” he said,
joking that, “If he can do what he did in the battlefield in
my safety group, I'll be at zero. I'll never have an
accident. ... We really want to make him a poster child for
Army Career and Alumni
Program for information on services it offers to help prepare
transitioning Soldiers for life after the Army.
By Elizabeth Collins, Soldier Magazine
Videos About Medal of Honor Recipient Clint
Medal of Honor Ceremony
Battle At COP Keating |
Hall Of Heroes Ceremony |
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The Romesha's Story
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