The Muddy and Dusty Boots of Ramrod 7
Discussion Board on this Respect item
CSM Steve Faulkenburg was the epitome of an Infantryman and almost larger than life figure to the Soldiers of Task Force 2-2 Infantry, Ramrods. We had the distinct pleasure of serving along side him for two years during two operational deployments--Kosovo (Nov 02 to Jul 03) and Operation Iraqi Freedom II (Feb 04 to Nov 04). We knew immediately he was a Soldiers’ leader from the moment we met him. He was an Infantryman who cut his teeth and served in units such as the 101st Airborne, 82nd Airborne, and 2nd Infantry Divisions; all light assignments where he honed his skills as an Infantry Soldier and leader. The Big Red One was his first mechanized assignment and one that did not intimidate this incredible soldier. Most Infantrymen who have served their entire career in the light world don’t care to be around mechanized vehicles, but not Ramrod 7. CSM Faulkenburg viewed this assignment like all of his others. He would often say, in his unique southern accent, “Hell Sir, it’s all about leading Soldiers.”
His presence was immediately felt by all, especially the non-commissioned officers. He personally set the example and challenged young NCOs to embody and live by the NCO creed. During the battalion’s deployment to Kosovo, CSM Faulkenburg demonstrated he was the standard bearer with his continuous presence. All were amazed at his energy and ability to always be at the critical point on the battlefield. Because of his in-depth understanding and passion for Soldiers and standards, he frequently conducted nighttime leader checks. He knew this was the time when standards tend to drop, and he was there to ensure they did not. Every soldier on Montieth, Zegra Base, Observation Post Power and, Thunder Base knew to expect Ramrod 7 when it was the darkest, coldest, or rainiest. He would be there to inspect the Soldiers at guard mount, on entry control points, and in guard towers. When a soldier was found wanting, it was his NCO chain of leadership that retrained. Ramrod 7 was truly about Soldiers living by the “Warrior Ethos”. During the Kosovo deployment, he organized and executed a V Corps Leaders Check Ride, EFMB, two modified table VII gunneries, and weekly live fires to ensure the Soldiers maintained a combat focus. When Operation Iraqi Freedom I began, many Ramrod soldiers felt they were being left on the sidelines. CSM Faulkenburg, who always understood levels above his position, reminded the men that supporting efforts contributed to the mission’s success, and our assigned mission was protecting EUCOM’s flank. He also told Soldiers to look long term--we would get our chance to fight in Iraq. The battalion returned from Kosovo in July 2003 and received orders to deploy to combat in Iraq.
In February 2004, the Ramrods were on the march again, occupying Camp New York in Northern Kuwait and refining those combat skills that would take us through the approach march through Baghdad to FOB Normandy north of Baghdad. CSM Faulkenburg took his place in the final serial and ensured no one was left on the side of the road and accountability was maintained at every stop. In his unmistakable voice and a cheek full of Redman, Ramrod 7 had the ability to bark commands over the task force command net to ensure all leaders maintained situational awareness, a combat focus and would never, ever compromise standards.
Task Force 2-2 arrived at FOB Normandy and completed the first step in a long journey. Although the Ramrods were met with difficult living conditions, CSM Faulkenburg recognized a forward operating base with personality and unlimited potential. Always taking care of soldiers, CSM Faulkenburg established priorities of work that ensured security was established to high standards followed by improving soldier’s living conditions. Improvements deliberately began to unfold. Today, Normandy sets the division standard in force protection. The dining facility started as a shell of a building--first came lights, followed by chairs, windows, and then air conditioners. Eventually the birds and bats were defeated and replaced by stand up refrigerators for soda and ice cream as the scorching summer arrived. The chapel went from ugly to a true place of worship. The MWR Center changed from an abandoned building with eight phones to a place where soldiers could relax, watch television, drink an ice coffee, and check email. The PX went from nothing to a well stocked facility, burn barrels were replaced by latrines, and working showers replaced baby wipes. Throughout all these changes, CSM Faulkenburg’s personality and determination left a lasting imprint.
In Iraq, CSM Faulkenburg conducted a combat patrol with every platoon in the task force. He followed the platoons through the orders process, rehearsals, precombat checks and inspections, execution, and AARs. He knew that was how he could best understand the strength and weaknesses of each platoon, its leaders, and Soldiers. Never backing down from a fight, Ramrod 7 was involved in Task Force 2-2’s first firefight in March 2004 on the day of the transfer of authority. CSM Faulkenburg lived for maintaining contact with the enemy once the snake raised his head. During the Battle of Muqdadiyah Market Place on 08 August 2004, he fearlessly roamed the battlefield. A soldier described him as, “the Robert Duvall character in Apocalypse Now” and he inspired those around him.
Task Force 2-2 was called upon to deploy from FOB Normandy twice. During the insurgent’s Easter Offensive, Task Force 2-2 fought for two days, disengaged most of the battalion while in contact, and conducted a 400 km approach march to An Najaf south of Baghdad. Crossing both the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers while in contact, Ramrod 7’s crew killed several insurgents. As part of the Brigade Combat Team, CSM Faulkenburg enforced the standards of Task Force 2-2 which helped bring stability to An Najaf so it could be later handed off to the 1st Armored Division. The Ramrod’s deployment to Fallujah in November 2004 was a more difficult mission.
Task Force 2-2, under the operational control of the 1st Marine Division for the assault on Fallujah, would face a well entrenched and determined enemy. Having occupied the city for months, the insurgents were able to build and improve fighting positions and plan a complex defense of the city. The soldiers of Task Force 2-2 were more than ready and CSM Faulkenburg was one of the main reasons why.
CSM Faulkenburg was mortally wounded during the early morning hours of 09 November 2004 during the initial assault into Fallujah. To those who knew him, we can close our eyes and picture what Ramrod 7 was doing those last few moments. He was dismounted and organizing the soldiers around him. He had just finished guiding a battalion of Iraqi soldiers through the breach lane. As small arms fire burst out from two sides, CSM Faulkenburg issued fire commands to his gunner, and raced forward into the contact. The Task Force’s standard bearer had fallen, but his impact on the Soldiers he led continues on.
Command Sergeants Major simply to not come any better. Because of CSM Faulkenburg, we are all better Soldiers. He will always be with us. Our prayers are with this incredible noncommissioned officer and his loving family.
13 November 2004