Citadel grad among three S.C. guardsmen killed in Afghanistan
A Citadel graduate was among three S.C. Army National Guard military police killed Wednesday when a suicide bomber attacked a convoy in Afghanistan.
17 graduates killed to date in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Ryan Rawl (left) is the fourth graduate of the 2004 class to die in the wars.
Source: The Citadel
At least five other soldiers with the 133rd Military Police Company were wounded.
As of June 21
Killed in action
Department of Defense
First Lt. Ryan Rawl, 30, of Lexington, died in Khost, when a bomb exploded on a busy street during lunch time, authorities said Thursday. Rawl graduated from The Citadel in 2004.
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Thomas, 30, of Easley, and Spc. John Meador II, 36, of Columbia, also died.
Khost is in the far eastern part of the country, about 90 miles southeast of Kabul, at the foot of the mountains along the Pakistan border. The company, based in Timmonsville, is training Afghan Uniformed Police.
The bomber approached Afghan and U.S. soldiers in a packed marketplace and detonated the charge. The attack killed 21 people in all, including Afghans, said Baryalai Wakman, Khost provincial government spokesman.
The three soldiers killed were among 300 to 400 S.C. National Guard troops now deployed, according to the Guard.
The unit deployed 170 soldiers in November 2011 and was due to return home in August.
The deaths were the first in Afghanistan for the S.C. National Guard since October 2010.
Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston said 16 soldiers with the S.C. National Guard have died in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq since 2003.
Rawl was married and the father of two children, whom he described as “crazy but wonderful and I can't wait to see them again,” in a Facebook post.
He worked as a Richland County sheriff's deputy, serving as a middle school resource officer.
His commander, Capt. Chad Bryant, also a Citadel graduate, described Rawl in an email to the school as the most genuine person he has ever known and an officer who loved leading soldiers.
“He was an absolute leader, always leading from the front, and motivated his platoon to do everything they could to the best of their ability,” Bryant said. “His magnetic personality inspired all around him.”
Those traits shown through at The Citadel, said Beau Quarles, who as a knob, or freshman, trained under Rawl.
“I was slow to pick up on my knob knowledge,” Quarles said. Other upperclassmen would yell. Rawl “took his time with me. He saw I was trying.”
As a senior for whom the “field line” physical training was optional, Rawl would get out with the squadron, “right there with the sophomores and juniors so he could work with the troops, hands on,” Quarles said. Rawl took a squadron role that was less about paperwork and more about pushing and inspecting.
“He was always fair and he helped make my class. He helped us as far as being a man of honor,” Quarles said.
Rawl's Facebook site features a photo of his platoon posing in front of an armored vehicle holding a University of South Carolina Gamecocks flag. Among his likes is “Tough Mudder,” a 10- to 15-mile running event through an obstacle course.
“These men died serving their country and I want to express my deepest sympathy and condolences to their families, who are the unsung heroes of our war effort,” Livingston said in a statement. “These deaths are grim reminders that our military, to include our South Carolina National Guard, is still in active defense of our country. We are privileged to have such heroes in our midst.”
Gov. Nikki Haley said she and her husband, Michael, were deeply saddened by the news. Michael Haley is an officer with the S.C. Army National Guard.
“This tragic news is a constant reminder that our men and women in uniform and their families deserve our thanks each and every day,” Haley said. “We continue to pray for the recovery of the injured and the families of the lost, and South Carolina will now put all of our focus on helping them going forward.”
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Rawl was willing to stand up to protect and serve.
“It was with that same pride he did so in his military uniform. He was an example to men and women who wear the uniform everywhere,” Lott said.
Rawl is the 17th graduate of The Citadel to die in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, the fourth in his class to die, according to The Citadel.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.