Thursday, July 29, 2010

Army Master Sgt. Jared N. Van Aalst

Remember Our Heroes

Army Master Sgt. Jared N. Van Aalst, 34, of Laconia, N.H.

MSgt. Van Aalst was assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died July 29, 2010 at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained while his unit was conducting combat operations.

Master Sgt. Jared Van Aalst was born in Laconia, N.H., on Sept. 1, 1975. He enlisted in the U.S. Army as a signal support systems specialist on Aug. 17, 1995. He graduated in 1993 from Plymouth Regional High School in Plymouth, N.H.

He is the third Plymouth Regional High School graduate to die in combat in the past four years. Army Capt. Doug DiCenzo was killed in Iraq in 2006, and Army Spc. Marc Decoteau was killed in January in Afghanistan.

"Like any tiny community, there's a sense of sadness and shock," said Patti Biederman, whose family runs the Main Street eatery Biederman's Deli. "But there's also a sense of pride that they are from this community."

All three were popular students and athletes. Van Aalst and DiCenzo were teammates under wrestling coach Cam Sinclair. "I don't think this one has hit yet," Sinclair said. "I think when it does, the community is going to be wondering 'Why us?' How many memorials are you going to go to?"

Jim Kemmerer was principal of Plymouth Middle School when Van Aalst was a student there. Leafing through the 1989 yearbook, Kemmerer said Van Aalst was voted most popular, best looking and best dressed and had the best decorated locker among the boys. He said Van Aalst wrote that his goal was to be a member of a SWAT team.

"Even though Plymouth is somewhat of a transient community, there are a lot of people who stay here, and people keep tabs of each other," Kemmerer said.

Van Aalst is the second soldier with ties to New Hampshire to die in Afghanistan in the past two weeks. Staff Sgt. Kyle R. Warren of the U.S. Special Forces, who lived in Manchester, died Thursday, July 29, during an attack in Tsagay, Afghanistan.

According to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, he was a highly decorated solider serving his sixth tour of combat, having previously been deployed to Iraq three times and Afghanistan twice.

After completing Basic Training, the Signal Support Systems Specialist Course, and Basic Airborne School, Van Aalst was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga., for the Ranger Indoctrination Program.

After completion, he was assigned to HHC, 3rd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment, also at Fort Benning, where he served as a signal systems specialist. In the summer of 1997, Van Aalst graduated from Ranger School and returned to 3rd Bn., where he continued his duties for another year before reclassifying into the infantryman military occupational specialty.

In August 1998, Van Aalst attended Sniper School then returned to HHC, 3rd Bn., as a sniper team leader later transitioning to squad leader in August 1999. After serving for two years as a squad leader, he was selected as an instructor and a shooter in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning. He served in that position for two years before returning in September 2003 to HHC, 3rd Bn., as a sniper platoon sergeant.

Shortly thereafter, he deployed on his first combat rotation to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, then to Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq before moving in 2005 to Co. A, 3rd Bn., to serve as a platoon sergeant. As a platoon sergeant, he deployed twice to Iraq in 2005 and again to Afghanistan in 2006. Van Aalst returned to HHC, 3rd Bn., as the noncommissioned officer in-charge of the Reconnaissance, Sniper and Technical Surveillance Detachment. He deployed to Afghanistan again in 2006, for his fifth combat deployment. In July 2007, Van Aalst was assigned as the chief instructor and writer to 'C' Co, 2nd Bn., 29th Infantry, at Fort Benning, where he served for one year before being selected in 2008 as a special operations team member, U. S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N. C.

His military education includes the Basic Airborne Course, Ranger School, Sniper School, Warrior Leader Course, Static Line Jumpmaster, the Combat Lifesaver Course, Special Operations Target Interdiction Course, Infantry Advanced Leader’s Course, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course, Infantry Senior Leader’s Course, Pathfinder Course, the Advanced Land Navigation Course, and the Military Free-Fall Course.

He was posthumously recognized with a second Bronze Star Medal, a third Purple Heart Medal, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. His other awards include two Meritorious Service Medals, two Joint Service Commendation Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, seven Army Achievement Medals, five Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Service Star, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral 3, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Distinguished Pistol Shooting Badge, Distinguished Rifleman Badge, Excellence in Competition (Pistol) Badge, and the Ranger Tab. He also earned five Overseas Service Bars.

Army Master Sgt. Jared N. Van Aalst was killed in action on 7/29/10.

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