JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
Lt. Col. Christopher Carbone is a dedicated Soldier – the type of leader who genuinely cares about his troops and isn’t afraid to go to bat for them.
He’s also a North Jersey guy – retired from the Wayne Police Department – who would be right at home at a Springsteen concert, backyard barbecue, or weekend at the Jersey Shore.
But what many people may not know is that Carbone is a Purple Heart recipient who almost made the ultimate sacrifice during his second of three tours to Iraq.
“We were on patrol one day, and we were coming back to our area of Ramadi,” said Carbone as he recounted his October 2005 experiences in Iraq during a 2009 interview with CNN. “Just south of there, we received a call on the radio that one of my Bradley (Fighting Vehicles) required assistance.”
First Lt. Carbone was serving as a rifle platoon leader with 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain) assigned to the 2nd Marine Division as he and the other Soldiers in his vehicle – to include his gunner, Pfc. Anthony Jorgensen – responded to this distress call.
Meanwhile, one of Carbone’s comrades-in-arms who was back at the Forward Operating Base had a bad feeling about his young lieutenant’s mission.
“We had lost a lieutenant in a (previous) attack, and Lieutenant Carbone was replacing him,” said retired Sgt. Brent Reader, a medic who was serving with the 172nd’s 1st Battalion. “Knowing that he was new, I don’t think he quite got the severity (of the situation).
“I literary begged the battalion TOC to let me go out and catch up to him,” Reader continued. “The most they let me do was station just outside the FOB, but that was, like, 20 to 30 ‘clicks’ away.”
Reader then took it upon himself – at risk of disciplinary action – to load into his vehicle, leave the FOB, and start heading in Carbone’s direction.
“As a medic, I had to walk a fine line, because you’re given a direct order, but as a medic your job is to save people,” Reader explained. “To be an effective Soldier and save troops – whether you’re a medic or not – you have to think outside those boundaries and make judgement calls.”
As Reader sped toward Carbone’s position, his worst fears were confirmed: Carbone’s vehicle had struck an Improvised Explosive Device.
“The last thing I remember is turning to my driver and telling him to speed it up, and then it was just a flash,” Carbone said. “I woke up outside the truck with mayhem around. It was an IED – a roadside bomb.”
“As I was getting just outside of (Carbone’s position), I saw a plume of smoke and realized it was his Humvee that got hit,” Reader recounted. “When I got there, he was on the ground, wounded.”
Jorgensen was wounded as well, along with the vehicle's other occupants who all suffered injuries in the blast.
“They did have a medic with them, but he was the only one who was physically capable of firing (his weapon) and they were taking small arms fire, so he was trying to suppress the enemy,” Reader said.
Reader was able to load the wounded into his vehicle and get them back to base, despite hitting two IEDs himself – one on each leg of the round-trip gauntlet. After further medical stabilization, Carbone and Jorgensen were evacuated to Balad, Iraq, then Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and finally stateside for long-term recovery.
“There are approximately 20 titanium screws and plates all throughout the upper right side of my skull that they used to put it back together,” said Carbone, who currently serves as the operations chief for the 99th Readiness Division’s Mission Command Support Group, headquartered here at the Maj. John P. Pryor U.S. Army Reserve Center.
“We went through something that most people never go through, and what’s unique about it is that we both continued to serve – we both kept going overseas after that experience,” said Jorgensen, now a retired sergeant first class.
“I was a young private, and that started off my Army career,” Jorgensen continued. “A lot of me wanted to just run away, and it’s because of Lieutenant Colonel Carbone that I kept going.”
Carbone reunited with Reader and Jorgensen during his promotion ceremony to lieutenant colonel at Tommy B’s this past May. Carbone’s former medic and gunner were the first to salute him at his new rank.
“I’ve come home, with life-long friends,” Carbone said.