CPT Ross C. Pixler ’05 Receives Nininger Award

Categories: Nininger Award, Events & Awards
Class Years:

Captain Ross C. Pixler ’05 received the 6th annual West Point Association of Graduates Alexander R. Nininger Award Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, during an awards ceremony at West Point.

CPT Pixler earned the prestigious Silver Star medal as a lieutenant for his actions on October 30, 2007, in Iraq. After an enemy attack which immediately killed three of his soldiers, he ignored traumatic personal injuries and enemy fire as he controlled the situation to lead his platoon to safety.

His citation reads:

CPT Ross C. Pixler receives 2011 Nininger Award

First Lieutenant (Infantry) Ross C. Pixler, United States Army, is awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Platoon Leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 15thInfantry Regiment, 3d Brigade Combat Team, 3d Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on 30 October 2007, in Iraq. While riding through Salman Pak in a convoy of three Humvees, Lieutenant Pixler’s vehicles were attacked, instantly killing three soldiers in one vehicle and wounding Lieutenant Pixler. Reduced to two vehicles and dealing with several casualties, and although his men were still under intense fire, Lieutenant Pixler ignored the pain of a broken arm and ankle to dismount and go to the radio in one of his two remaining Bradleys to coordinate close-air support and kept his platoon under control. First Lieutenant Pixler’s gallant actions and dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.


2011 Nininger Award recipient CPT Ross C. Pixler

14 Sep 2011
Captain Ross C. Pixler ’05
General Huntoon, Mr. Glore and members of the Corps . . . thank you for this honor.
Not long ago, I was sitting where you are. In fact, Chris Bonner and the Class of 2012 . . . when you were new cadets, the firsties had been plebes when I was a firstie. So, in West Point time, I am separated from you by just one generation.

One of my memories of sitting in Washington Hall was hearing speakers say, “I will be brief,” only to discover that brief was in the mind of the speaker. So, I will make no such claim. On the contrary, I am going to tell you this speech is going to be long . . . and, hopefully, I will surprise you with my brevity.

OK, that was a joke to test if you were awake. I will give us all the coveted DPE HIGH ZERO on that one!

I am really happy to be here today . . . despite the West Point nightmares and flashbacks I have had. For example—and this is a true story—in 2007, I was deployed overseas. One night I was having a horrible nightmare. In my dream, I had procrastinated on a Modeling and Mathematics IPR and my SOSH paper was due. But then, I woke up in a cold sweat, and was relieved to realize that I was in Iraq—and not scrambling to deliver my SOSH paper.

Tonight, I am humbled to join ranks with previous Nininger Award recipients, to be associated with Lieutenant Nininger, and to represent the Long Gray Line—in particular, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Heroes like Amos Camden Riley Bock, who was my Plebe year Team Leader and my son’s namesake; Dan Whitten, my plebe year Platoon Sergeant; Laura Walker, my Beast company First Sergeant; my classmates: Emily Perez, Jacob Fritz, Neale Shank, Phil Neel, Jon Edds, Thom Martin, and Matt Ferrara. Their sacrifice is a constant reminder of the grave implications and the high honor characterizing our profession.

Make no mistake . . . you are preparing to join an incredible brotherhood. In it, you are never alone, never without a helping hand. Those on your right and left will sweat, fight, cry, and sometimes bleed with you. Individuals very dear and close to you may die. You will face trying times; they will challenge the fabric of your mettle.

But remember: we share something that no club, fraternity, or sorority, can possibly replicate. Our unity is sewn with the seeds of Duty, Honor, and Country and cultivated every day by our commitment to the mission and to each other.

Expect greatness of yourself and your peers. Your Soldiers certainly will. Accept no shortcoming and make every effort to improve. And take heart in the strength of our bond.

This evening, I would like to tell you about a situation I faced. It’s related to that bond, and it highlights two points I would like to make to you.

During the 15 months that I was a platoon leader in Iraq, I did not believe I would live to see the end of my tour. We sustained more than 30 IED attacks. Six exploded on my vehicles. Together with the other platoons in my company, we fought off 82 complex attacks on our combat outpost and Joint Security Station. My Soldiers and I experienced over 100 contacts with a determined and dissolute enemy who was dead set on killing us. We lost five comrades and ten others were wounded.

I owe my life to the Soldiers of 3rd Platoon and Hardrock Co of 1-15 IN, 3rd Brigade, 3 ID. Their heroism and courage under fire was shown every day, every patrol, every contact. Their bravery and determination earned the valorous awards I have received, including the Nininger Award. I have witnessed numerous and frequent acts of valor by my Soldiers. This evening, let me tell you about one.

It took place on January 18, 2008 in a town called Salman Pak, southeast of Baghdad. Like every day in iraq, It was a dry, dusty, and sundrenched afternoon. We were conducting a joint cordon and search with a platoon-size element of local nationals known as concerned citizens. The Al Qaeda were expecting us, and they ambushed a squad of our dismounts, attacking on three sides. Instantly, two Iraqis in our patrol were wounded. Due to the heavy volume of fire from AKs, PKMs, and RPKs, the squad of dismounts with their concerned citizens moved back to seek cover behind their Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Simultaneously, the Bradley moved forward to draw fire and identify the enemy locations. In the process, a strand of concertina wire that lay across the road got caught in the Bradley’s road wheels. As our armored vehicle moved forward, the wire wrapped around SSG Houghton’s and SPC Jernigan’s legs and pulled them under the Bradley. We stopped the Bradley and cut the wire trapping SSG Houghton.

However, SPC Jernigan was caught upside down. His leg was so entangled with the road wheels that we had to remove the Bradley’s side skirts. To remove the metal plates, we needed to first remove the reactive armor tiles. The only way to do that was by standing on top of the Bradley. However, we could not fire the 25mm main gun for suppressive fire, because we would jolt the Bradley and do more damage to the trapped Soldier’s leg, and we were still in the enemy’s kill zone. While I maneuvered the remaining squad against the enemy—deployed about 150 yards from us—and called for fire support, three Soldiers—without hesitating—stood in between SPC Jernigan and the incoming rounds—acting as a shield.

Think about that: his fellow Soldiers instinctively put themselves in the line of fire to protect their comrade, spraying suppressive fire on the enemy without any cover or concealment. In the midst of the firefight, SSG Morton and SGT Smith climbed on top of the Bradley to pull off the reactive armor tiles. By the Grace of God and the quick thinking and actions of the Soldiers, not a single member of our joint patrol was killed. In fact, we were able to treat, evacuate, and save both Soldiers and the two wounded Iraqi militia. SPC Jernigan was able to keep both his legs, and we killed the enemy.

Now, I know you are inundated with information here. So, I don’t expect you to retain much from my story. But, if you remember anything, set this down in your mental notes:

First, trust your subordinates: I will always strive to emulate the knowledge, skill and trust placed in me by MAJ William J. Clark (CO) COL John Marr (BC) and COL Wayne Grigsby (BCT). Their guidance and TRUST in my leadership was instrumental in my development as a young officer. Likewise, I trusted my NCOs. I will never forget the coaching, teaching, and mentorship of the NCOs with whom I served: SFC Zamarippa, Holts, and Cottrell; 1SGs Troy Garner, Pete Black, Pedro Quinonez, and CSM Mark Moore.

Second, you will serve under a leadership covenant with your Soldiers: my Soldiers and NCOs instinctively placed themselves in harm’s way, and I witnessed similar acts of courage on a daily basis. It will be your duty to cultivate that courage and loyalty by serving your incredible Soldiers. Never lose sight of that awesome responsibility, nor forget the principle that you—as a U.S. Army officer—are a SERVANT to your Soldiers . . . not the other way around.

In closing, I note that almost exactly 10 years ago, I was sitting in plebe Chemistry Class in Bartlett Hall when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Hearing the shocking news, I was only slightly aware of how that day’s attacks would forever affect the lives of everyone around me—to now include you. I am impressed by each and every one of you. You pledged to serve our great nation in the midst of a long war. Granted, you will graduate from the greatest academic institution this country has to offer, you will spend some time learning the basics of a specific branch, and you will have the privilege of joining a U.S. Army unit. However, I imagine most of you will also deploy to a combat zone within two years. When you do, you will take your place alongside a proud cohort of men and women who have served not only our country, but also mankind.

So, that’s my story and my message. I hope it hasn’t been too long for you this evening.

You have honored me very much with your attention.

Thank you again . . . to the Kenna Family, the Association of Graduates and the Corps of Cadets for this great honor.

Most importantly—and I’ve always wanted to say this in Washington Hall—Go Army! Beat Navy!

Nininger Award

This Award is named in recognition of the heroic actions of Second Lieutenant Alexander R. Nininger, USMA Class of 1941. After commissioning, LT Nininger was sent to the Philippines attached to the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts. During the first month of the Japanese invasion, Nininger voluntarily joined another company because his unit was not yet engaged in combat. He was posthumously awarded the first Medal of Honor in World War II for actions near Abucay, Bataan on Jan 12, 1942.
The Alexander R. Nininger Award is funded by a generous endowment from E. Doug Kenna ’45 and his wife, Jean.

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