Obama says Medal of Honor recipient Groberg prevented bombing deaths
November 12, 2015
WASHINGTON — An Army officer who risked his life by tackling a suicide bomber in Afghanistan received the Medal of Honor on Thursday during a ceremony at the White House.
Capt. Florent Groberg stood in uniform before a crowd of family, friends and fellow soldiers as President Barack Obama looped the nation’s highest military honor around his neck in the East Room.
The award came three years after his quick response blunted the effects of a deadly bombing on U.S. troops. Groberg is the 10th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for service in Afghanistan and joins two other fellow soldier recipients who served with the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“Today we honor Flo because his actions prevented a potentially greater catastrophe,” Obama said. “You see, by pushing the bomber away from the formation, the explosion occurred farther from our forces and on the ground instead of in the open air.”
Six past Medal of Honor recipients, soldiers who served with Groberg during the bombing, and family members of the four Americans who died from the attack were in the audience.
Obama said Groberg, 32, was unaware at the time that tackling the attacker caused another bomb carried by a second suicide bomber to detonate prematurely and away from a group of VIPs, which included two brigade commanders, three battalion commanders, the brigade’s command sergeant major and an Afghan general.
“Had both bombs gone off as planned who knows how many could have been killed,” he said.
In August 2012, Groberg was in command of a six-soldier security team during a visit to a local government compound in Abadabad, Afghanistan.
The group encountered Afghans on two motorcycles at a bridge chokepoint along the route. The motorcycles were likely a diversion and to his left, Groberg saw a man come out of a building and begin ominously walking backwards.
The man suddenly turned toward the group and Groberg broke from position to push him back and as far away from the group as possible. He then saw the man was wearing a suicide vest with a “dead man’s trigger,” which meant it would detonate when the bomber released his grip.
Together with teammate Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, who was later awarded the Silver Star, they shoved the bomber to the ground and the vest detonated, blowing Groberg 15 to 20 feet back, rupturing his eardrum and badly wounding his leg.
During the ceremony Thursday, Obama said Groberg had shown the same type of character throughout his Army career and during his time as a track-and-field athlete at the University of Maryland.
“As good as he was in individual events, he always found a little extra something when he was running on a relay with a team,” Obama said. “Distance running is really all about guts and as one teammate said Flo could suffer a little more than everyone else could.”
Groberg said the medal should stand for the four American personnel who were killed during the bombing. They were Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, 45, of the 4th BCT; Air Force Maj. Walter David Gray, 38; Army Maj. Thomas Kennedy, 35, and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a USAID foreign-service officer.
“This medal belongs to the true heroes … who made the ultimate sacrifice. It also belongs to their families,” Groberg said.