|By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff
as you fight and taking positive actions were keys for a Silver Star
recipient who was well received by a Fort McCoy audience during a Sept.
25 Year of the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) event.
Sgt. Gregory S. Ruske (left)
shares a point with Fort McCoy Garrison Command Sergeant Major
Command Sgt. Maj. William T. Bissonette Jr., during a Year of
the NCO event.
(Photo by Val Hyde)
Sgt. Gregory S. Ruske, only the fifth U.S. Army Reserve Soldier to
receive the Silver Star for heroic actions in Afghanistan or Iraq, said
his actions were a great credit to his training and the NCOs who served
as his trainers and mentors.
Ruske earned the Silver Star for his actions April 21, 2008 in
Afghanistan’s Kapisa province, a remote area not accessible by vehicles.
Taliban operatives ambushed his unit while they were on patrol and
unleashed a heavy gunfire and grenade assault. Ruske immediately
responded, suppressing the enemy with accurate rifle and grenade fire.
Because he’s only been an NCO for a year, Ruske said he believed it was
more appropriate for him to talk about how his life experiences and the
NCOs he worked under had helped shape his military career.
Ruske said he was raised by a single mother, enlisted in the Army in the
infantry field in 1998 and served three years on active duty before
being discharged in 2001.
“I spent a lot of time in the field and wasn’t a big fan of it,” Ruske
said. “That was to be expected. I was an 18-year-old and thought I knew
everything there was to know.”
“I kept asking, ‘Why do we keep going to the field, training and doing
the same thing over and over and over. It’s getting a little monotonous
and redundant,’” he said.
The most tangible benefit he could see was it allowed him to max out his
physical training score in push-ups, Ruske said.
After he left active duty, Ruske attended college and received his
degree. He went on to work as a corrections officer and joined the Army
He was assigned to the 5025th Garrison Support Unit, an Army Reserve
unit in Colorado Springs, Colo., before he volunteered to serve a tour
of duty in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, he served with 3rd Platoon, A Company, Task Force
Gladiator, Combined Task Force 101.
“To make a long story short, when all that kicked off in Afghanistan —
that redundant training — the stuff that I thought has no place, no
purpose, doing it many times (saved me),” he said. “But people started
to freeze when the bullets started flying and shooting was exploding
everywhere. It’s because of all that training; it’s because of all those
NCOs that looked after me and taught me everything they knew (throughout
my military career), that I managed to react just like that.”
Ruske said the bottom line of the event was that everything he learned
from life’s lessons — including the support of his mother — led him to
stand up for his country.
Members of the audience at a Year
of the NCO event, including Sgt. Gregory S. Ruske (front), stand and sing
the Army song. The Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy cadets are
pictured in the background.
(Photo by Val Hyde)
“Everybody (on our side) went home that day,” Ruske said. “Despite
everything that went wrong, any firefight you can walk away from with
your guys, you can consider that a good day.”
After his service in Afghanistan, the 5025th was deactivated. Ruske was
assigned to the 96th Regional Readiness Command until he could transfer
to the 104th Division in Aurora, Colo.
Fort McCoy Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Command Sgt. Maj. William T.
Bissonette Jr., honored Ruske with a command sergeant major coin and a
garrison commander’s coin.
Bissonette noted the Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy cadets who were in
attendance and told them that Ruske was a great example to help them
understand what it takes to be a responsible citizen and, in this case,
a responsible Soldier.
Ruske also helps young people who have gotten in trouble through his
role as a corrections officer, Bissonette said.
“He was, in fact, a hero (that day). But the reason he was a hero is
because he has the character to be a hero,” Bissonette said. “And for
you ChalleNGe Academy cadets, I want you to understand that character is
the thing that is going to carry you through life.”
Keith Krueger, commandant for cadets for the Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy
at Fort McCoy, said the cadets were welcome to attend the event because
it allowed them to gain an understanding of the importance of NCO duties
“The cadets are at the stage in their life where they want to touch,
feel, see, and experience things for themselves,” Krueger said. “This
event allowed them to hear what NCOs have to do to be successful and how
that can carry over to their life. Sergeant Ruske was a role model for
Cadet Justine Klomberg said it was cool to hear Ruske talk about his
experience over there and what he did.
“He wasn’t arrogant,” Klomberg said. “He didn’t consider himself a hero.
He just did his job.’
“His courage is inspiring,” she added. “It will help me do things in my
life when I don’t think they are doable.”
Cadet Dillon Anderson said Ruske’s story showed anyone in the military,
including NCOs, can get Silver Stars.
“He did have a lot of courage, and I will use his example to make myself
more willing to participate,” Anderson said. “He was well-prepared to do
things and didn’t give up when things got tough.”