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Sequim resident’s son receives Bronze Star

Randall Markgraf, son of Sequim resident Carolyn Markgraf, received the Bronze Star Medal for exceptional performance in the line of duty.

Markgraf, a platoon sergeant with the Army’s 3D Heavy Brigade

Combat Team based in Fort Hood, Texas, has been in the Army 11 years. He returned to Fort Hood Dec. 5 after 14 months in Iraq.

According to documents supplied by his family, Markgraf’s actions “contributed immeasurably to the success of building a free and democratic nation for the citizens of Iraq.”

When asked what it was he did to receive the Bronze Star, he claimed, “It was all my troops. It was all their work. I can throw out orders, but they have to follow them.” In fact, Markgraf nominated four of the team leaders from his platoon for Bronze Stars. One of his nominees was a sergeant in charge of the interrogation center. “She did really good, an exceptional job,” said Markgraf. “I know she would have gotten the Bronze if she had been of higher rank.”

Markgraf said he always wanted to be in the military. After finishing high school in San Diego, Calif., he enlisted. He originally was interested in becoming a fighter pilot, but his vision was not up to Navy standards. Markgraf also said he has “an insane gun hobby,” and that the military seemed like the right place for him. He studied Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., and trained as an interrogator.

Markgraf says the majority of his job is that of a facilitator for his platoon, making sure they have all the supplies they need. “I only went on about 80 patrols,” which worked out to being about 20 percent of his time. The rest of his days were filled with a lot of paperwork, which he said is one of the most difficult aspects of his job.

This deployment was his first as a platoon leader. Markgraf expressed just how important it is for units to be well formed and established as a cohesive group before they reach the field of action. Lack of time for individuals to form into units before deployment made his work more challenging. He explained that field training for his most recent platoon began in January, 2006, but that by April, shifts in the troops made it so two-thirds of them hadn’t been there to train.

“Originally, they told us we were going to sit in Kuwait as reserve for about a year and if they needed us, they would call,” explained Markgraf. “But at the last minute we got assigned to Bakuba, Iraq. I thought we were really gonna need time to train the new guys, but they hit the ground running and did a great job.”

Markgraf said his troops and the Iraqi troops worked well together and as soon as an interpreter was on the scene, some really important work was accomplished. “We would give the Iraqis information on bad guys we were trying to prosecute. So when one of these guys would come through a checkpoint, the Iraqi troops would know whom to get. There was a lot of giving and receiving of information. And my troops partied with the Iraqis. They got along.”

Markgraf is hoping to be transferred to an interrogation school in Arizona. He is a career military man and has no desire to leave the life behind. “I want to train troops. I will probably have to go back to Iraq just to see what’s working and what’s not. To keep my head in the game.”

Markgraf, who received his medal in October 2006, is the third generation of his family to serve in the military. His grandfather was in the Navy and his stepfather, Sequim resident Jerry Baltzer, fought with the Army in the Korean War.

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