Christopher M. Falkel
Staff Sergeant, United States Army
RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
August 10, 2005
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs - (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Staff Sergeant Christopher M. Falkel, 22, of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, died on August 8, 2005, in Deh Afghan, Afghanistan, when his unit was conducting combat operations and was engaged by enemy forces using small arms fire. Falkel was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs
at (703) 692-2000.
He was a Special Forces weapons Sergeant assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Falkel died during combat operations near Deh
Afghan, Afghanistan, August 8, 2005 while he was deployed in
His parents, Jeffery and Dianne Falkel, of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, survive him.
His military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Valor device, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NCO Professional Development Ribbon, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Basic Parachutist Badge and the Special Forces Tab.
He joined the Army in October 2001 as an infantryman with his ultimate goal being a Special Forces Soldier. He attended basic training, advanced individual training and basic airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia. In May 2002, he moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and was assigned to the 1st Special Warfare Training Group, where he began training to become a Special Forces weapons sergeant. Falkel attended the Special Forces Arabic Language Course and the Special Forces Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course. He graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in June 2003. Upon graduation, Falkel was then assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was deployed overseas in June 2005 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"When you think of a Special Forces soldier, that was Chris."
Dianne Falkel said the family did not wish to comment beyond this statement: "Two parents could not be more proud of their son. He was very, very special and dedicated and considered it an honor to serve his country."
"Chris took part in air assault raids deep in enemy territory," said Gant, who was one of Falkel's unit commanders.
"The details have not been released, but Chris went down in a battle that will make the annals of Special Forces history."
As rain pounded relentlessly Wednesday afternoon,
military personnel and friends visited Soldiers arrive for the memorial
service. Chris died doing what he loved the most, with the men he loved
the most and the men who loved him dearly, said Captain Jim Gant. Christopher
Falkel's family, friends and fellow soldiers more than 100 people gathered
Tuesday at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Centennial to honor the Green
Beret from Highlands Ranch.
Staff Sergeant Christopher M. Falkel, 22, died Monday when his unit came under small-arms fire while conducting combat operations in the Deh Afghan district of Zabul province, a military source said.
Falkel, a 2001 graduate of ThunderRidge High School, was deployed to Afghanistan in June. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
"Even as a young child, he liked to play with G.I. Joes, and the Army was something he always wanted to do," said Matt Sahagun, Falkel's best friend and a U.S. Marine. "Chris was fearless, and he'd do anything, whether it was climbing a rock face or jumping tall buildings."
Military officials declined to say what kind of mission Falkel was on. However, nearly four years after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, U.S. troops continue to search for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his followers who are believed to be hiding along Afghanistan's rugged mountain border with Pakistan.
"There are certainly operational security concerns in releasing more information," said Major Elizabeth Robbins, a military spokeswoman in Washington, D.C.
As of Wednesday, 220 U.S. soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan, while 1,839 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, according to military statements.
Falkel joined the Army in October 2001 shortly after graduating from high school. He completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georigia, and rose rapidly through the ranks. He was selected in 2002 to undergo special-forces training at Fort Bragg, according to the Army and friends.
Falkel learned Arabic during his training, which he completed in June 2003. He had received a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and several other medals, the military said.
Falkel is the second Colorado serviceman to be killed in Afghanistan in the past six weeks.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny P. Dietz, 25, of Littleton, a Navy SEAL, was killed June 28. He was part of a four-man team searching for a major al- Qaeda figure when they were attacked. Dietz and two other SEALs were killed. The fourth soldier was rescued.
When news reports surfaced about a special-forces soldier from Colorado being killed in Afghanistan, some friends and family feared it might be Falkel, Sahagun said. They soon learned it was Dietz.
"I honestly never worried about (Falkel)," Sahagun said. "Chris was a warrior. He knew he had a job to do. ... I knew that he was good at doing his job and keeping all of us safe."
Falkel's family was notified of his death Tuesday. An American flag hung on their front door Wednesday as a military officer met with his mother. The family declined to comment, but neighbors and friends described Falkel as an "all-American kid."
Falkel was born in Ohio but was raised in Colorado since elementary school, friends said.
Falkel kept a tight group of five friends. Each joined the Marines except for Falkel, who chose to follow in his father's footsteps in the Army.
"He was just a real fresh- faced, sweet young
man," long- time neighbor Judy Maillis said of Falkel. "It's so sad that
this had to happen to such a nice family."
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Corporal Christopher Matthew Falkel, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant and .50 Caliber Machine Gunner with Operational Detachment Alpha 316 (ODA-316), 1st Battalion, 3d Special Forces Group (Airborne), Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan, on 7 and 8 August 2005, in and around the BUKA GHAR and Marah Valleys, Afghanistan, in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
Staff Sergeant Falkel's unyielding spirit, selfless service and aggressive nature effectively disrupted five enemy ambushes and greatly contributed to the successful extraction of his teammates during and over a forty hour running battle in close combat with a numerically superior enemy. His actions reflect great credit upon himself, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, and the United States Army.
NARRATIVE TO ACCOMPANY AWARD:
Staff Sergeant Christopher M. Falkel distinguished himself by exemplifying spirited bravery as the Weapons Sergeant for Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 316, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM from 7 August 2005 to 8 August 2005.
Staff Sergeant Falkel distinguished himself in five fierce enemy engagements with a well trained, emplaced aggressive enemy during a time span of thirty four hours while operating as the 50 cal. machine gunner on the last vehicle of our element, while conducting operations in the Zabol Province of Afghanistan while deployed to A-Camp Lane.
Staff Sergeant Falkel's calmness under fire and tactical competence were imperative to the detachment's survival. During our unit's first engagement in the Buka Ghar Valley, Staff Sergeant Falkel was instrumental in helping fix and engage enemy positions that had the entire element pinned down. His continuous engagement without concern for his own well being allowed our heavily suppressed elements to get to positions of better cover and his relentless punishment to the enemy while fully exposed later caused them to retreat. During our second contact in the Buka Ghar Valley, Staff Sergeant Falkel once again was instrumental in accurately putting down heavy volumes of fire on well emplaced machine gun positions so other members of our unit could move up to pinned down Afghanistan National Army (ANA) elements that were part of our patrol and help consolidate, assess, and get control of their situation. We continued to receive heavy volumes of machine gun fire and RPGs from numerous positions. He played a crucial role in the final elimination and forced withdrawal of the enemy by providing cover for the ODA's mortar team while they engaged the extremely fortified machine gun positions. If it wasn't for the cover fire and marking of these positions by Staff Sergeant Falkel, our element would have been seriously devastated by the well emplaced, heavily armed and numerically superior forces.
Our element continued to pursue the enemy during their retreat when they sent ahead for reinforcements to set up what was to be the third ambush. During our pursuit, we received Anti Coalition Member (ACM) communications stating that they were targeting the last vehicle because it was very strong. This information didn't faze Staff Sergeant Falkel, as he still insisted that we must go forward and finish the enemy off. Upon the third ACM ambush, Staff Sergeant Falkel immediately located and fired upon the well emplaced and trained enemy force without care for his own life while being engaged himself by a flanking element. His bravery allowed our ANA element to maneuver on the larger ACM element, later causing these same elements to maneuver to a location they thought would give them a tactical advantage. This only led them to a better vantage point for Staff Sergeant Falkel, who was able to eliminate them during their maneuver to what would have been a position devastating to our ANA element. The remaining ACM elements broke contact again, only to reform and gather more experienced and trained fighters further down our route.
The fourth ACM contact opened up on our lead element with concentrated fire, but Staff Sergeant Falkel quickly and effectively responded as he had done in the previous contacts, knowing that he would draw fire upon himself. Immediately to the flank of our vehicle the major portion of the ambush opened up with an extraordinary amount of heavy machine gun fire. Staff Sergeant Falkel, while fully exposed, quickly and effectively spun his turret and machine gun in the direction of fire and began to engage. The whole time rounds were impacting all around our vehicle and him. He continued to engage without care for his own welfare or safety, his only care being that of his fellow team members. He continued to suppress the well concealed enemy until aircraft came on station. Staff Sergeant Falkel was able to spot and lay down effective fire so the aircraft knew where to fire to completely eliminate the enemy threat. Once again, we intercepted ACM communications that again said they were reorganizing at a location that they had success with in the past. Staff Sergeant Falkel demanded that we continue on and finish the enemy. As we entered Cakyan Ghar Valley, the enemy opened up with what was to be Staff Sergeant Falkel's fifth and final encounter with this highly trained, numerically superior, and well equipped ACM force that we had been dealing with and pursuing for the past thirty hours. They opened up on our lead element as before with extraordinary volumes of machine gun, RPG and AK-47 fire. Staff Sergeant Falkel rapidly spun his turret and gun while informing the rear gunner of our vehicle where the fire was coming from, and began to engage without care for his own life. His only concerns were for the care of his fellow team mates and trying to eliminate, or draw some of the fire from those machine gun positions that had our lead element pinned down. No sooner had Staff Sergeant Falkel begun to engage the well emplaced enemy positions, when the rear gunner of our vehicle saw him slumped over his 50 cal. machine gun still orientated towards, and covering down on the ACM elements that were heavily engaging his team mates. It was later discovered that he had taken a single shot to the head. It is my belief that Staff Sergeant Falkel was targeted by an ACM sniper due to his effectiveness during the four earlier enemy ambushes that accrued in the 34 hours prior.
Staff Sergeant Falkel willfully and voluntarily chose to serve in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM supporting his fellow soldiers, the legitimate Government of Afghanistan, and the United States of America in the global war on terror. The distinctive accomplishments of Staff Sergeant Falkel reflect great credit upon himself, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan and the United States Army.
Action Date: August 7 & 8, 2005
Posted: 17 October 2005 Updated: 21 October 2005 31 May 2009
Photos By Holly, May 2009