HARRISBURG, Pa., - Training is what got Spc. Jason D. Harrington into Iraq, and training is what got him out alive.
"I was just doing what I had to do," said Harrington, who was presented the Silver Star in a ceremony held here on Dec. 27. "I think any other Soldier would have done the same thing."
His actions were credited with saving the lives of fellow Soldiers during an incident in Iraq in September 2005.
Harrington joined the Pennsylvania National Guard to pay for college after graduating from high school in 2000.
After he completed all of his individual training, “I was kid of itching to go over there,” Harrington told his hometown newspaper, the Lancaster, Pa., Intelligencer Journal.
He got his chance in June 2005, when he was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 172nd Armor as a member of a long range surveillance and sniper team.
On Sept. 19, 2005, three of Harrington’s platoon members, including his platoon leader, were killed after being attacked with an improvised explosive device (IED).
According to his award citation, Harrington immediately volunteered to be part of a reaction force to respond to the scene. Along with another platoon, he left his base and moved into a known high-threat area with little friendly presence.
As the two Humvees in his group were moving to the scene, the vehicle that he was in was struck with an IED, tearing off the front of the vehicle.
“I was pretty fortunate to be able to walk away from that,” Harrington told the Lancaster newspaper.
Disoriented from the explosion, not knowing the extent of his own injuries at the time and suffering from a possible concussion, Harrington’s training took over.
First, he physically checked the crew in his Humvee for injuries. “There were 10 of us in my Humvee, and we all walked away, Harrington told the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot News.
After everyone was checked, he exited the destroyed vehicle and began to engage the enemy positions exposing him to small arms fire.
The platoon sergeant hooked a tow strap to Harrington’s vehicle and began to pull it away from enemy fire when both Humvees were struck by a second IED, knocking the platoon sergeant out of the vehicle.
Harrington helped a medic begin first aid on the wounded platoon sergeant, according to the citation.
With the two Humvees now disabled and without communications, Harrington grabbed a radio out of his bag and established communications with headquarters.
“If I had not had my radio, who knows what would have happened,” Harrington told the Patriot News.
After the recovery effort was completed, he again assumed additional risk to himself by helping to sweep the unsecured area for insurgents.
“Spec. Harrington’s calm under fire and personal courage were directly responsibility for saving lives on a day when many more lives could have been lost,” the citation states.
Harrington, who left the Guard in 2006, is only the third 28th Infantry Division Soldier to be awarded the Silver Star.
“The Silver Star is not something that is given out lightly,” said Brig. Gen. Jerry G. Beck, the 28th ID commander, who described Harrington’s story as “a real hero’s story.”
It is the third-highest decoration for members of the U.S. armed forces after the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor.
“Every day, I know how lucky I was to make it out,” he told the Patriot News. “And unhurt at that too.”