GREEN, Ohio (USASOC News Service August 7, 2006) – In the early evening June 16, a group of about a dozen Soldiers from B Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, immaculately clad in full military dress uniform, nestled together in a small basement room of the Schermesser Funeral Home. Above them, hundreds of well-wishers waited their turn to honor the memory of their friend and brother-in-arms, Sgt.1st Class Daniel B. Crabtree, recently killed in combat. Occasionally, one of the men would slip out temporarily to mingle with the guests.
The somber quiet was occasionally punctured by a laugh, which was inevitably followed by a story – like the time their friend broke his leg on his first jump with the elite troops after successfully completing the Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course.
Their friend and comrade had landed badly on the jump. As he lay on the ground with a broken leg, one unit member, Sgt. 1st Class Don (due to the sensitive nature of special operations, first names only will be noted), noticed that something was wrong with his friend and was temporarily distracted.
“I rode my ruck in, trying to see what was wrong with him,” Don said with a laugh. “I landed pretty hard and when I got to him, he was laughing at me. He was still laughing and smiling while grimacing in pain.”
They also remembered the Special Forces weapons sergeant for his patience and kindness.
“You want to know what Dan was like?” Sgt. 1st Class Kevin, a fellow unit member, asked.
Kevin recounted an email – one of many such emails and phone calls he had received in the preceding days – from a young Soldier who had trained with the Special Forces unit, but ultimately didn’t make it to the qualification course. As a trainee, the Soldier had always looked up to the “tabbed” (Special Forces-qualified) Soldiers, particularly Crabtree.
“He always stopped and took the time to talk to me, even though I wasn’t tabbed. He answered my questions no matter how stupid they were,” the young Soldier wrote. “That was Dan. He was what being a Special Forces Soldier is all about.”
Crabtree died June 8, when a roadside bomb exploded next to his vehicle during a combat patrol near Al Kut, in east-central Iraq. “He was on his way to a meeting. He was trying to help a village threatened by the insurgency, trying to help them secure themselves to reduce the threat,” Don said. “He died doing what he liked to do.”
The 31-year-old weapons sergeant had been as determined to make a difference in Iraq as he had always been in meeting his personal goals. One Soldier recalled Crabtree’s training regimen when he was preparing himself for the rigors of the Special Forces Qualification Course. At the time, he was working night shifts.
“He would train when he got off work in the morning, when he was already tired,” he said shaking his head. “He would strap a 70-pound ruck to his back and just start running.”
Crabtree had a passion for weapons that carried over to his civilian job, where he worked as a sniper for the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. He was also a member of the force’s honor guard.
“He was really good at teaching weapons,” Don said. “He took the time to study all kinds of different weapons systems.”
With a knack for teaching, along with his civilian police training, Crabtree was particularly well-suited for his mission in Iraq, where he developed and implemented a SWAT training program for the Iraqi Police Force in Al Kut. As the lead trainer, he instructed the SWAT volunteers in advanced marksmanship, offensive and defensive driving techniques and urban assault tactics. He had also previously been involved with training other foreign troops.
“They always liked him because he was patient. He always took the time to explain things,” Don said.
Crabtree and his operational detachment also assisted the Al-Kut SWAT team in more than 35 combat missions which netted more than 100 known insurgents.
“The Al-Kut SWAT was one of the most effective Iraqi units. They were feared by the insurgency because they were so effective,” Don said. “And that was due, in large part, to his training.”