Story and photo by Maj. Christopher Thomas
4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — When two suicide bombers detonated their vests Aug. 8 against an International Security Assistance Force patrol moving to a meeting in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan, they struck at the very heart of the “Mountain Warrior” Brigade.
Killed in the blast were Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, senior enlisted leader, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division; Maj. Thomas Kennedy, fire support officer; Air Force Maj. Walter Gray, air liaison officer, 13th Air Support Operations Squadron; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, U.S. Agency for International Development representative.
The four were on a patrol to a joint planning meeting with Afghan Provincial Government and military officials to discuss upcoming security operations along with Col. James Mingus, 4th BCT commander; Col. Daniel Walrath, the adviser brigade’s senior commander; Lt. Col. Brandon Newton, commander, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div.; and several other members of the Security Forces adviser teams working with the Mountain Warriors in Kunar. Coordinating the efforts of the government and the four different Afghan Security Forces in the province is a critical effort in paving the way for Afghan-led, planned and executed operations as ISAF security forces increasingly take a secondary role in securing these volatile areas.
Mingus praised the work and sacrifice of all those who have come before the brigade. Their progress, “has come at great cost, the most cost being human life.”
“If Kevin, Tom, DG and Ragaie, along with many others before them, were standing here today, they would say ‘honor me by finishing the cause,’” Mingus said. The memorial was held on Forward Operating Base Fenty Aug. 14 in front of a crowd of more than 500 Soldiers, civilians and Afghan officials.
Griffin joined the 4th BCT before its rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center in November 2011, where he met and selected Pfc. Benjamin Secor to be on his security detail.
“He would say, ‘you need to fix yourself, but remember I still love you,” said Secor, noting Griffin’s kind but firm way of dealing with Soldiers.
Griffin missed his Family, said Secor.
“He missed his sons so much that he took me and made me feel like family.”
Gray had been with the brigade during its extensive train up for Afghanistan, participating in all the exercises, bringing his infectious, laid-back but hard working attitude to the brigade staff during difficult training events, said Air Force Capt. Matthew Perry, 13th ASOS, his assistant air liaison officer. He remembered how Gray immediately took him in when he joined the Tactical Air Control Party.
“I could have never been more pleased or happy to serve under such an admirable and caring leader,” said Perry. “His love and passion for the TACP personnel was unmatched.”
Kennedy, the new brigade fire support officer, had just joined the Mountain Warrior team in Afghanistan, but had already made a strong impression on the rest of the staff. Maj. Rett Burroughs, the brigade signals officer, quickly befriended him.
“From the moment Maj. Tom Kennedy arrived to the brigade headquarters, he fit right in. He was one of us,” said Burroughs. “He pulled up his sleeves and dove right into the mission. In the short time he was with us here at FOB Fenty, Afghanistan, he made an everlasting impression on us,”
Abdelfattah had worked tirelessly with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the region to help Afghan government agencies meet the needs of the people more effectively. He had more than 15 years of experience working with overseas development agencies.
“He was, at his essence, a committed humanitarian, determined to use his intellectual talents to make life better for the most unfortunate and dispossessed people in this war-torn land,” said Richard Riley, Department of State, at a memorial ceremony Aug. 9, held at the U.S. Embassy.
The loss of any person is devastating, and the friends and Families of those members of the brigade who have made the ultimate sacrifice remain in the thoughts and prayers of their fellow Mountain Warriors.
They would not want their fellow Soldiers to lose sight of the objective, however.
“This will be how we will honor their sacrifice, that it not be in vain,” said Mingus.
They would expect no less.