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Fort Drum soldier to receive Medal of Honor

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FORT DRUM — A retired 10th Mountain Division officer will be presented the Medal of Honor, becoming the sixth living combat veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan to receive the military’s highest honor.

Capt. William D. Swenson is being honored for his courageous actions during a six-hour battle on Sept. 8, 2009, in the Ganjgal valley of eastern Afghanistan, where he was an embedded trainer and mentor of the Afghan National Security Forces with the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

He is the first living Army officer to be nominated for the award in four decades.

The honor was announced in an email from the White House on Monday afternoon. President Barack Obama will present Capt. Swenson with the medal on Oct. 15 at a ceremony that he will attend with his family.

According to a military synopsis, Capt. Swenson was part of an Afghan and American operation in the valley of Ganjgal Ghar to encourage elders to separate from insurgent forces and connect with the Afghan government.

When his team was ambushed by about 60 well-armed insurgents concealed along the terraced mountains, Capt. Swenson took immediate action to assess the situation and return fire, coordinate the response of partnered Afghan forces and call for suppressive artillery fire and aviation support.

He also is credited with providing first aid to a comrade and leading multiple teams to recover wounded American and Afghan personnel, as well as three Marines and one Navy corpsman killed in action.

He is the second service member to receive the Medal of Honor from the 2009 fight. Also involved was Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, then a corporal, who received the award in September 2011.

Five American and nine Afghan service personnel and an Afghan translator died; 24 Afghans and four Americans, including Capt. Swenson and Sgt. Meyer, were wounded. In addition to the two Medal of Honor nominations, participants received a slew of other commendations.

However, two Army officers received reprimands for dereliction of duty for spurning calls by Capt. Swenson and others for artillery and air support.

Capt. Swenson, a Seattle native who retired from the Army in 2011, is the second 10th Mountain Division soldier to receive the Medal of Honor since 2001, and the third overall. Also receiving the honor was Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, who was posthumously honored in September 2009 for his actions in Afghanistan in June 2006, along with Pfc. John D. Magrath in 1945 for his actions during World War II.

Capt. Swenson was first nominated on Dec. 18, 2009. However, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John Allen, had to resubmit Capt. Swenson’s papers in July 2011 after they were said to be in what the Army later claimed was a bureaucratic foul-up due partly to high staff turnover at U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, or USFOR-A, the American contingent in NATO’s International Security and Assistance Force.

A McClatchy Newspapers investigation published Aug. 6, 2012, found that an internal U.S. military probe indicated that as Sgt. Meyer’s nomination sailed through the approval process, there may have been an effort to kill Capt. Swenson’s nomination.

His nomination had been stalled since at least last summer, prompting Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Calif., in January to ask the Army and the Defense Department to explain the delay.

Capt. Swenson joined the Army in 2002. His 2009 tour was the third of his career.

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