The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Fort Bliss Soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Staff Sgt. Robert E. Thomas Jr., 24, of Fontana, Calif., died September 13, at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, of wounds suffered during a non-combat related incident on April 21, 2013 in Maiwand, Afghanistan.
He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, Fort Bliss, Texas.
Staff Sergeant Robert Thomas was born on 4 November 1988 in San Bernardino, California. He graduated from Etiwanda High School in June 2006.
Staff Sergeant Thomas enlisted in the Army on 13 July 2006. He attended the fourteen-week long Infantry One Station Unit Training Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. Staff Sergeant Thomas' first duty assignment was Fort Campbell, Kentucky where he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division as an Assistant Gunner. In October 2007, he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for twelve months. In October 2010, he served in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as a Squad Leader for ten months.
In April 2012 Staff Sergeant Thomas reported to Fort Bliss, Texas. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment where he was immediately selected as a Squad Leader in the Mortar Platoon. He deployed with the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division in December 2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Staff Sgt. Benjamin Mitchell, assigned to the mortar platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division deployed with Thomas to Afghanistan. "He was always there for me,” Mitchell said of Thomas. “Whenever I needed help, professionally and personally, he was there... He always put the welfare of others before himself."
Staff Sgt. Hector Pichardo, also assigned to the mortar platoon, said, "It was an honor to work with him. Staff Sergeant Thomas and I, we were an amazing team. We did everything together. Staff Sergeant Thomas really taught me a lot. He always had a positive attitude... Staff Sergeant Thomas is someone I'll hold in my heart. I'll always remember him."
Sergeant First Class Christopher Amos, Thomas' platoon sergeant, added: "Any task I gave him, it was always, 'Too easy, too easy, Sergeant.' He never complained, never griped. He was there for everyone.”
Staff Sgt. Thomas' awards include the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal with a Campaign Star, the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the NATO Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Air Assault Badge.
Staff Sergeant Thomas is survived by his wife, Kristina and daughter, Hailey.