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Medal of Honor recipient tells cadets of loss, leadership in battle

Rebecca Burylo, Montgomery Advertiser 9:22 a.m. CDT July 15, 2016

U.S. Army Ranger Capt. Florent “Flo” Groberg learned a lot about leadership during his two tours in Iraq. He also learned a lot about loss and overcoming.

The loss of close comrades. The loss of his will to live – and finding it again.

He shared his wartime experiences, which resulted in receiving the Medal of Honor, with nearly 120 Civil Air Patrol Cadets Thursday. Cadets arrived at CAP Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force from across the nation as part of the annual Cadet Officer School, a college-level leadership training for the "very best" of CAP.

Cadet Sierra Shiver, 16, traveled all the way from Germany, where her family is currently stationed, with the Air Force to participate in the program this week and next. She hoped to take back the leadership values and the motivation she learned from Groberg's story to her own squadron.

"I've learned a whole lot so far and it's been really amazing," said Shiver, who's been accepted into college and wants to pursue a career in the Air Force Reserves as a pilot.

"I want to define my own leadership style, become a better leader and an inspiration for our younger cadets," she said.

Groberg surely inspired the cadets with his humorous approach to a story riddled with fear, heroism, sorrow and pain.

Being born in France, adopted and then brought home to live in Indiana taught Groberg the value of being a naturalized United States citizen and the strong desire he had to serve and "wear the uniform." However, there were obstacles to overcome before he could serve.

The day after he graduated from college, Groberg talked with an Army recruiter and renounced his French citizenship. Eighteen months later he was speeding to finish basic training, Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Army Ranger School in order to catch the next deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2009, he deployed as a "rookie" platoon leader for Task Force Lethal. His first leadership lesson was to shed his ego and rank and ask for advice.

"If you don't know what you're doing, find the closest person to you who does know and ask them to mentor you and help you," Groberg said.

He did and that first tour was a success. The second was not.

He deployed again to Kunar Province in Afghanistan in 2012 with the Task Force Mountain Warrior. There, he and a small security detachment were responsible for the safety of nearly 30 high-ranking officers.

As they escorted them on foot to base, they were ambushed by suicide bombers.

The group was halted by two motorcyclists. Groberg turned to his left and spotted a teen carrying a bomb strapped to his chest. He rushed toward him, shoving him away from the patrol.

"The only thought I had was not about dying, but about my team," Groberg said. "If I died and my boss lived, it was a good day. I had to protect them. This was the job I volunteered for."

Tackling him, Groberg continued to push the bomber several feet away before the explosive detonated. Groberg was flung nearly 20 feet and awoke to his leg on fire. He lost much of his leg and he later discovered he also lost four of his closest comrades in the blast, but saved the rest of the company.

Since then he's struggled with survivor's guilt, depression, anger and hurt for the families left behind. With the help of others, Groberg has been able to overcome and daily honors the memories of his friends so he may "earn the right to live again."

Looking back on his time in the Army he's learned a lot, he said.

"I learned about brotherhood, trust in individuals, not micromanaging, but believing in others," Groberg said. "Think how you can affect others around you in a positive way because in the end, they will affect you back."

View a video of Groberg's presentation here.