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Gazette Premium Content Carson soldier to receive Silver Star after August attack

JAKOB RODGERS Updated: April 19, 2013 at 12:00 am

Sgt. Andrew Mahoney knows just how “strange” it is to still be alive.

He grabbed an Afghan wearing explosives last year, threw him to the ground and watched as the man detonated his vest. Mahoney lived — as did the commander he was ordered to protect.

“Every day,” Mahoney said Friday. “Every day I think about it.”

The Fort Carson soldier will receive the Silver Star on Monday for his actions Aug. 8 in Asadabad, Afghanistan, when two suicide bombers attacked the heart of the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team and killed four people, including the brigade’s top enlisted soldier.

The death toll could have been worse, said Capt. Florent Groberg, the Fort Carson soldier in charge of protecting the brigade’s leadership that day.

Both insurgents struck as Col. James Mingus, the brigade’s commander, another colonel, two command sergeants major and a host of other Fort Carson officers walked to an Afghan provincial building.

The threat assessment that day was “green,” with no intelligence suggesting a suicide bombing was imminent, Groberg said.

“It was clear,” said Groberg in February, while recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “It was the typical threat every time that you step off outside the wire — be weary of possible enemy activity, enemy ambush.”

As the men walked down the street, Groberg remembered seeing one Afghan “acting real iffy.” Suddenly, the Afghan turned and moved toward Mingus — his advance stopped by only by Groberg and Mahoney, who threw the Afghan to the ground.

Seconds later, the insurgent’s vest exploded, sending shrapnel into both soldiers’ bodies.

Mingus survived, suffering a concussion.

“I did all I could,” Mahoney said. “Everything was in my power in that day. In the short period of time I had, I did the best I could that day.”

At the same time, though, a second suicide bomber struck from a different direction, said Maj. Christopher Thomas, a brigade spokesman.

Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, Maj. Thomas Kennedy and Maj. Walter Gray — an Air Force officer assigned to the brigade to help coordinate air strikes — were killed. Ragaei Abdel Fattah, a U.S. State Department employee, also died.

The deaths of those four left Mahoney feeling “bittersweet” on Friday.

Mahoney returned to duty in November and has recovered about “90 percent” from the blast, which sent metal ripping through both arms and one leg.

“It’s hard to put a positive spin on something because I know that four people had to lose their life, basically, for me to get this,” Mahoney said.

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

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A Fort Carson soldier will receive the Silver Star — the Army’s third-highest medal for combat valor — for his actions during a deadly attack nine months ago in Asadabad, Afghanistan, post officials announced on Friday.

Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, with the 4th Infantry Divisoin’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, will receive the award during a ceremony on Monday.

"It kind of made me realize that what I view as every day business, to everybody else was something exponentially greater than that,” Mahoney said.

The attack on Aug. 8 struck at the heart of the brigade, killing its top enlisted soldier and two officers, as well as a state department employee.

It could have been worse, said Capt. Florent Groberg, the Fort Carson soldier in charge of protecting the brigade’s leadership that day.

The attack happened as Col. James Mingus, the brigade’s commander, as well as another colonel, two command sergeant major and a host of other Fort Carson officers walked to an Afghan provincial building.

Grobert and Mahoney grabbed one suicide bomber as the Afghan moved toward Mingus — throwing him to the ground seconds before his vest exploded, the soldiers said. Mingus survived, suffering only a concussion.

“My entire team, I think they’re all heroes,” Groberg said in February. “Everything they did. Every single one of them.”

At the same time, though, a second suicide bomber struck from a different direction, said Maj. Christopher Thomas, a brigade spokesman.

Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, Maj. Thomas Kennedy and Maj. Walter Gray — an Air Force officer assigned to the brigade to help coordinate air strikes — were killed. Ragaei Abdel Fattah, a state department employee, also died.

On Friday, Mahoney -- who suffered shrapnel wounds in his arms and one leg -- called the award "bittersweet."

Check back to gazette.com for more information as the story develops.

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