By Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield
2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
MINNEAPOLIS — On the morning of Oct. 3, 2009, 1st Lt. Andrew Bundermann and the Soldiers of Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, woke up to the sound of mortar and small arms fire near their combat outpost in Afghanistan.
In his Army physical fitness shorts and flip flops, and in the absence of the Bravo Troop commander, Bundermann took charge of the Soldiers and began to coordinate external communication.
“It’s really happening, it’s not a joke, it’s not training, it’s not a movie, it’s not fake,” said Bundermann, describing the day of the attack. “This is actually happening.”
That was the start of the Battle of Kamdesh, the battle between the 54 Soldiers on Combat Outpost (COP) Keating and over 300 Taliban forces.
“The most critical decision we made (that day), was when we said we can no longer be on the defensive side of the back initiative and get into an offensive posture,” he said. “Whether radio, hands, yelling, screaming, whatever it is, communication was always key.”
After 13-hours of battle, the Soldiers successfully defended their post but ultimately lost eight Soldiers: Justin Gallegos, Christopher Griffin, Kevin Thomson, Michael Scusa, Vernon Martin, Stephan Mace, Joshua Kirk and Joshua M. Hardt.
Bundermann, who was originally awarded the Silver Star for his actions in the Battle of Kamdesh, was one of 12 upgrades from a Silver Star to the DSC, the second-highest award for valor. The upgrades were part of a Pentagon-wide review of combat awards given after Sept. 11, 2001, launched by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter.Nearly 10 years after the attack, the Minnesota native stood in front of his Family and friends on stage of the Northrop Auditorium, where he once stood as a University of Minnesota student and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadet, to receive the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) March 7.
“I’m extremely privileged and happy to be part of (this), but most importantly it’s a great opportunity to honor those eight gentlemen every day,” said Bundermann. “I am very proud of every single one of them and everything they did. I am very proud of that team.”
Bundermann was happy to see the Soldiers and the unit continue to receive recognition for the work and bravery they displayed that day.
“(The award is) theirs more than it is mine,” he said. “I just happen to be the person standing (on the stage) to get it.”
However, Maj. Stoney L. Portis, commander, Bravo Troop, 3rd Sqdn., 61st Cav. Reg., 4th BCT, at the time, said it was important to recognize Bundermann’s leadership.
“When I heard Andrew’s award was getting upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, I was relieved and proud to know the Army saw Andrew’s heroism during the battle of Kamdesh in much the same way our Soldiers and I have, ever since … he was absolutely indispensable,” he said.
Receiving the award in Minneapolis was not only momentous to Bundermann and his Family but also to the UoM ROTC community.
According to ROTC Cadet Hannah Thompson, a Howard Lake, Minnesota, native, being part of the same program that Bundermann was once part of, is an honor.
“We are all doing the same things that he did as he was learning (to be an officer) and hopefully we can follow in his footsteps one day,” she said.
As Thompson enters her senior year at UoM, she said she is using Bundermann as an example of how to be a good leader.
“You want to be the best officer you can be, but you have to realize there are (Soldiers) underneath you that are willing to risk their lives … and follow you into combat, (Bundermann) is a great example of that,” she said.
Bundermann, now a regional manager for a consumer package goods company, said he misses certain aspects of the Army.
“I remember all the great things the Army has to offer, and joining the Army is still the best decision I made; and I can’t say it enough about how much I love that organization.”