Jim Carney

Craig Warfle decided as a teenager in Stow that he wanted to become an elite soldier.

He and friends studied the various elite teams in the U.S. military and pinned their hopes on the Army Rangers.

He and a friend packed bricks in backpacks and took off on hikes as a way to get themselves into shape.

Warfle succeeded, and recently was awarded the second-highest military award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for actions in battle in Afghanistan in 2010.

The son of Gary and Charlena Warfle, he now is in a select group. Fewer than 30 soldiers have received the Distinguished Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.

Warfle, 22, enlisted before graduating from Stow-Munroe Falls High School in 2008.

He and two high school friends, Michael Ulanowski and Eddie Stewart, entered the Army during the summer after graduation and are all now Rangers, each with the rank of sergeant. Warfle trained in high school with Ulanowski and also received help in his pre-Army training from a retired Ranger.

The incident occurred Aug. 18 and 19, 2010. The news release describing the event credited him with “being instrumental in the death of at least 16 Taliban fighters, the removal of two Taliban Provincial commanders and the recovery of a large cache of weapons intended for use against Coalition forces.”

Warfle, a member of 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Ga., received his medal in a ceremony in October, presented by Gen. Raymond Odierno, chief of staff for the U.S. Army.

At the ceremony, the battalion received the Presidential Unit Citation for Extraordinary Heroism.

Odierno thanked the 31-member group for bravery and courage under fire, along with willingness to put their lives on the line while carrying out a mission, the news release said.

Warfle is the first member of he 75th Ranger Regiment to have received the Distinguished Service Cross since Sept. 11, 2001, said Lt. Col. Brian DeSantis, regimental public affairs officer.

During the 2010 event, a news release said, Warfle was shot in the shoulder and his squad leader, Sgt. Martin Lugo, was killed.

The news release said that Warfle “disregarded his injury and placed himself in the line of fire to protect his injured squad leader and the soldiers who tried to evacuate him for medical help. Sgt. Warfle eventually applied a tourniquet to his own arm and continued to engage the enemy with fire power instead of leaving to receive medical treatment.”

Warfle said his unit was on a mission to kill or capture Taliban members.

“After we were dropped off by helicopters, we took fire from enemy positions in a tree line in front of us,” he said. “As the team moved up, we were able to suppress them enough to get to somewhat of a lull. At that lull, we moved up to clear the area and when we were within 15 members, the enemy engaged us again, severely wounding one team member and one round hitting my upper right arm.”

Warfle, a specialist at the time, said he was up front with his squad leader “when a burst mortally wounded him and slightly injured me.”

Charlena Warfle, 55, of Stow, said she has a picture of her son as an 8-year-old dressed in Army fatigues.

“Words cannot express how proud I am of him — he worked hard to join the Rangers and I am not surprised at his actions,” his mother said.

His father, Gary Warfle, said his son trained in high school doing pushups, carrying bricks in a backpack and running long distances so he could become a Ranger.

“Craig receiving the DSC is a huge honor for the whole family,” he said.

Warfle is married to Rebecca Oberdove Warfle of Stow.

He said the award really feels like it is no big deal “until people bring it up. I really put it in the back of my head as much as possible, then when it is brought up, I feel reminded, like ‘Oh yeah, I forgot about that.’ ”

His comrade, Sgt. Lugo, was awarded a Silver Star posthumously, Warfle said.

“He was a very good leader,” he said.

During the October award ceremony, three soldiers were given Silver Stars, three Bronze Star medals were awarded, and Purple Hearts were awarded to 12. Warfle previously had been awarded the Purple Heart for the battle.

Warfle spoke of the rigorous training and camaraderie of Rangers.

“There is definitely a bond,” he said.

He said after Basic Training he completed Airborne School, then completed the Ranger Selection Program and officially became a Ranger. About a year later, he finished the 13-week Ranger School, a leadership program for Rangers and received his Ranger insignia.

“We work, eat, sleep, and live together for more time than I do with my wife,” Warfle said. “So with that you get a more personal level of connection than you do with just a co-worker. I think that the risk of life puts another dynamic to it.”

There is a father-son relationship that develops between more experienced Rangers and those with less experience, he said.

“To put it bluntly, I would feel better if it was me killed by something I chose to do than one of my younger team members,” he said.

Warfle, who works as a fire-team leader, said he has more than two years left on his enlistment, has had two deployments since Afghanistan and expects a fourth deployment sometime during 2013.

“It is a difficult life but it supports us well,” he said of Army Ranger life.

Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at jcarney@thebeaconjournal.com.