Colonel John Thompson points to a map of Afghanistan to illustrate a point about U.S.
Colonel John Thompson shares Afghanistan combat experiences at NGV luncheon
Colonel John W. Thompson, a native of Augusta and 1987 graduate of North Georgia College, spoke at the May 10 North Georgia Veterans luncheon meeting about his experiences in Afghanistan.
Thompson, a combat veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, with multiple deployments in support of Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom spoke to the NGV group about actions in U.S. Special Forces actions in Afghanistan and a heroic rescue of a wounded combat soldier in the rugged terrain of eastern Afghanistan.
Taskforce Dagger, part of the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, was done with two “Axises,” Thompson said. One was a Special Forces unit from Base K2 in Uzbekistan and the other on the Indian Ocean from an aircraft carrier.
“What was so neat about this invasion was that everywhere the Special Forces unit linked up, they planted a piece of the World Trade Center tower and marked that, and when they dedicated the horse-mounted soldier at the 9/11 Museum, they gave a map to the Museum with the grid coordinates of every area they have planted a piece of the Trade Center Tower. That was a special part of that mission.”
Task Force Kaybar was a separate mission from the aircraft carrier and flew up along Pakistan. From an aviation perspective the terrain was immensely challenging, Thompson said, with helicopters flying near 14,000 feet with auxiliary oxygen resources in an area where mountain peaks can reach 18-19,000 feet.
“The unit I commanded was made up primarily of three types of aircraft, the OH-6, both the attack version and the assault version, the Blackhawk troop transport and MH -47, the larger tandem rotor aircraft.
“Afghanistan is a country of the most diverse terrain and the most diverse sects of people that I have ever encountered, even more diverse than Iraq and other places I have been around the world,” Thompson assured the crowd.
Thompson described, with the help of a video of actual action by the Special Forces and simulations, a “distress” mission to rescue a wounded soldier just west of Kandahar. It illustrated how some helicopters are sometimes required to perform actions not intended for that particular craft, according to Thompson.
The event called for an MH-47 to hover in difficult terrain to rescue a wounded soldier while under fire with attack helicopters providing cover. Finding that the harness that the wounded soldier was in wasn’t compatible for hoisting, a medic was lowered to the ground to grab the soldier and be hoisted up together. The rescued soldier lost his leg but recovered well and later became a successful businessman.
Thompson’s military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with numeral two, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Combat Action Badge, the Master Army Aviator Badge, the Parachutist Badge and the Air Assault Badge.
He is married to the former Lashelle Pruitt from Canton, GA. They have two children, Bryce and Whitley.
Veterans’ widows honored
Dick Scharf presents Liz Shoemaker, left, and Sharon Johnson, recently widowed spouses
Dick Scharf presented NGV coins to Liz Shoemaker and Sharon Johnson, recently widowed wives of service members.
“We all wear uniforms and stuff but we know that a lot of sacrifice, heartbreak and you name it comes from the family,” Scharf said before presenting the coins to them.
Scharf also announced at the meeting that Big Canoe’s General Steve Arnold has been named the 2017 distinguished graduate by the West Point Society of Atlanta.
The North Georgia Veterans organization is open to all veterans, anyone who has served in any branch of Service, in any capacity, for any period of time. All that is required is an honorable discharge. Luncheon registrations are required. Please visit the website www.ngvets.org to register.