by Staff Sgt. Michael O'Halloran
105th Airlift Wing
4/14/2015 - STEWART AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. -- Staff
Sgt. Todd "T.J." Lobraico, a member of the 105th Airlift Wing who was
killed in action in Afghanistan Sept. 5, 2013, was honored with a
posthumous award of the Bronze Star Medal with Valor during a ceremony
held at Stewart Air National Guard Base, April 11, 2015.
Lobraico was killed in a "hellish barrage of rocket, grenade, and small
arms fire" as he maneuvered against a Taliban ambush and bought time for
the other members of his squad to react during a mission outside Bagram
Lobraico, a Sherman, Connecticut resident, had deployed to Afghanistan
in June 2013 as part of a team of 105th Base Defense Squadron Airmen
whose mission was to secure air bases, train, and fight much like Army
infantry. This was his second deployment. He had served in Iraq in
His Bronze Star and citation were presented to his parents, Lt. Col.
Linda Rohatsch and Master Sgt. Todd Lobraico Sr., both members of the
105th Airlift Wing like their son, during the ceremony by Col. Timothy
LaBarge, 105th Airlift Wing commander.
Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General of New York, Maj. Gen.
Verle Johnston, the commander of the New York Air National Guard, and
members of the 820th Base Defense Group, the active Air Force base
defense force that the members of the 105th Base Defense Force Squadron
were serving with that day were also in attendance for the presentation.
Lobraico was assigned to the 755th Expeditionary Security Forces
Squadron of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Group, a part of the
445th Air Expeditionary Wing, where he served as a vehicle commander.
According to his medal citation, on Sept. 5, 2013 Lobraico volunteered
to establish a listening and observation post eight miles outside the
Bagram Airfield perimeter in order to deter enemy mortar and rocket
attacks. Lobraico took the point position on the mission, scouting ahead
and providing security for his fire team. While moving he discovered an
insurgent force which was in the process of setting up to ambush his
fire team with rocket propelled grenades, small arms, and an improvised
explosive device. With total disregard for his own safety, Lobraico
placed himself directly between his fire team and the insurgents who
unleashed a hellish barrage of rocket, grenade, and small arms fire.
Sergeant Lobraico took immediate and decisive actions while braving this
intense enemy fire, and was mortally wounded while directing the
maneuver of his fire team to covered positions from which they could
effectively defend themselves and return fire on the enemy positions.
His actions were instrumental in gaining fire superiority and the
survival of his team.
LaBarge praised Lobraico for his courage and said that his death had an
impact throughout the wing. "When T.J. was killed over in Afghanistan
that ripple resonated through the organization," La Barge said.
"The impact of his death was immediate, profound, and specific, and we
will feel it for a long time," LaBarge said. "However, this does not
mitigate the amount of pride we feel for T.J. and the Lobraico families.
This ceremony today was something that basically allowed us part of the
healing process and I think it was important for the families as well."
Tech. Sgt. Michael Pacenza, Lobraico's squad leader, remembered him as a
person who was always smiling and willing to volunteer. He would always
help out someone in need. "T.J. is our hero. He gave his life for us
that dark night outside of Bagram airfield," he said.
"Lobraico was a great NCO," said Staff Sgt. Juan Ospina, who deployed
with Lobraico on multiple occasions. "He was upbeat and he always made
you laugh when you were down. By all definitions, he was a true American
hero. He saved his team; he saved a lot of lives that night. He
sacrificed himself; put himself in harm's way, a selfless act. It makes
me proud to have known him as a person and fellow NCO," he added.
Ospina and Lobraico joined the Air Guard together in 2008. They deployed
to Balad Air Base, Iraq together in 2010 and then deployed again to
Afghanistan in 2013.
Shortly after the award ceremony, the newest building erected at
Stewart, the 105th Base Defense Group Headquarters was officially
opened. Master Sgt. Todd Lobraico, the longest serving member of the
unit and T.J.'s father, and Airman 1st Class Jim Byrne, the most junior
member of the unit, cut the ribbon opening the new facility. A plaque at
the building marks Lobraico's sacrifice.
Lobraico's death brought to 33 the total number of New York National
Guard combat deaths since 2001. Lobraico was the first-- and so far
only-- member of the New York Air National Guard killed in action in
Afghanistan or Iraq. Thirty-two members of the New York Army National
Guard have been killed in action or died in a combat zone since Sept.
11, 2001. Ten of those deaths were in Afghanistan and 23 were in Iraq.
The Bronze Star Medal is an individual military award of the United
States Armed Forces. It may be awarded for acts of heroism, acts of
merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone. The Bronze Star Medal is
the fourth-highest individual military award and the ninth-highest by
order of precedence in the US Military. When awarded for acts of
heroism, the medal is awarded with the "V" device.