Monday, July 31, 2006


Soldier's fast rise through the ranks was ended by a sniper's bullet
Staff sergeant mourned in Baumholder ceremony

By Terry Boyd, Stars and Stripes

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Being a career soldier meant Staff Sgt. Chris Swanson had made the eight-man squad he led his family.

And because they were his family, Swanson would do anything for those eight men, including give his life for them, Staff Sgt. Joshua Tucker told mourners gathered Friday for Swanson’s memorial.

Swanson, of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, died July 22, shot by a sniper while leading that squad during a combat patrol in Ramadi.

It was the third Iraq tour for Swanson, a 25-year-old native of Rose Haven, Md.

He wasn’t just an able soldier, said those who saluted him Friday at H.D. Smith Barracks. It was hard to see any limits on Chris Swanson’s Army career.

In the 82nd Airborne before he came to the 1st Armored Division, it took him only 18 months to rise from specialist to E-6. He was chosen last year to lead a squad in a live-fire demonstration at Grafenwöhr Training Area for Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey, said Capt. Marvin King III, 2-6 battalion rear-detachment commander.

His friend knew if he could make E-7 and go to master gunner school, “he was well on his way,” Tucker said. But Swanson knew what he was getting into.

“When we parted two months ago, one going one way, one going another, I embraced him like a brother,” Tucker said during the memorial. “He looked at me and said, ‘I got it!’ We both understood.”

As career soldiers, both understood what Swanson was in for, going to Ramadi, Tucker said in an interview. He was going to combat. “I knew what he was getting into. He knew it too.” Swanson already had earned the Purple Heart. It took 25 stitches to sew up a shrapnel wound from an improvised bomb two weeks ago, according to media reports.

But if ever there was a soldier prepared for combat, it was Swanson. Swanson was from a family of public servants who served in the police, military and the FBI. For the time they’d known each other, Tucker watched Swanson “evolve from a good friend into a great soldier,” he said. Ambitious, aggressive, determined, energetic and most of all competent were the adjectives those who knew him used.

Swanson was also incredibly competitive, on duty and off, King and Tucker said.

If anyone said his squad or even his platoon were better, “he’d stop you on the spot and challenge you to a competition,” King said. “He had no worries. He knew his men were the best.”

Swanson was adept at forming close, long-lasting friendships, friendships that extended to locals. He still can visualize Swanson off duty, relaxing in the nearby old Roman city of Trier, surrounded by his German friends, Tucker said.

“I will never be able to express in words the impact he had on my life, or on the soldiers he leaves in the wake of his legacy,” he said.

Swanson is survived by his father and mother, Gary and Kelly Swanson, and a brother, Kenny.

Swanson was one of three 1st AD soldier to die this week. Capt. Jason M. West, 28, of Pittsburgh, Pa., died July 24 in Ramadi, when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire. West was assigned to the Friedberg-based 1st Brigade.

Another 1st Brigade soldier died the same day in a separate attack, but neither the Department of Defense nor the division has yet released his name.

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