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LTC James Enos '00

2021 Nininger Award Recipient

West Point Graduate LTC James Enos '00When 2021 Alexander R. Nininger Award for Valor at Arms recipient Lieutenant Colonel James R. Enos '00 addressed the West Point Corps of Cadets, he told his audience of future Army officers to prepare for anything.

“When the Class of 2022 graduates in 211 days, you will be the first class in 20 years to graduate when our nation is not at war,” Enos said. “There is no patch chart, no pre-planned deployment schedule. As future platoon leaders, you will have to prepare to deploy at any time.”

Enos stressed the importance of being prepared because, like so many in the Army, what he thought his future career would look like changed in a day. When Enos and the Class of 2000 entered West Point in 1996, the Cold War had just ended, there were no major peer adversaries, and only a few staff and faculty had combat experience in places like Grenada, Panama or Kuwait. When his class graduated in May 2000 and entered the Army, the major deployment was a peacekeeping operation in Kosovo. As a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Enos assumed the Division Ready Force in early September 2001. On September 11, Enos and his team went to work to conduct air assault leader training with no idea the entire trajectory of their Army careers would change that morning.

While deployed in Iraq, then Captain Enos was again faced with shifting plans while serving as the company commander for Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment in Ar Ramadi, Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On Thanksgiving Day in 2006, a local Sheik made a desperate phone call saying his tribe was under attack from al-Qaeda. Dog Company had planned on focusing on the city, but they moved to this area which was more rural.

A few days later, on December 4, 2006, Dog Company was participating in an operation to attack and clear the insurgent stronghold of SOFIA and SAJARIAH. That afternoon, one of Enos’s platoons came under fire, and within 15 minutes, his entire company was receiving heavy enemy fire.

“That’s really where training starts to take over,” Enos said in an interview describing the harrowing day. “Especially as a company commander or platoon leader, your job is almost to think two or three steps in advance to figure out how to set conditions and what assets to bring in the fight.”

While under intense fire himself, Enos was able to crawl over and around rooftops to direct devastating close air support, mortar, and artillery strikes onto identified enemy positions. At the same time, he continued to direct four tanks and the fires of his three platoons to suppress and destroy additional enemy positions. Under these covering fires, he directed the evacuation of four badly wounded soldiers, which saved their lives.

Enos was awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day. The citation reads: “Throughout this entire action, Captain Enos demonstrated strong and calm leadership while directing a chaotic battle and personally under constant enemy fire. His leadership kept the company in the fight and the enemy was killed and driven from the battlefield that day.”

Enos attributes the success of that day not only to his training but also to the fact that, in 2006, almost everyone he worked with had experience in combat. He said he trusted the soldiers to do their jobs, and they did what they needed to do, including the fire supporters who identified, located, and destroyed enemy mortars. He trusted his squad leaders who rushed to the rooftop of a building after it exploded to evacuate the wounded from 2nd Platoon. He trusted his team leaders who exposed themselves to enemy fire to help the wounded to cover, as well as his executive officer, Jeff Pringle, who led the convoy back and forth and up and down a road that nobody had cleared for explosives in order to evacuate the wounded. His radio telephone operator, Corporal Josh Mott, made sure Enos could direct his company while under fire. Several of these soldiers received Bronze Stars for valor that day as well.

In bestowing Lieutenant Colonel Enos with the 2021 Nininger Award, the West Point Association of Graduates recognizes his personal bravery and leadership and regards him as a representative of all West Point-commissioned officers who have heroically led soldiers in combat. The Nininger Award was established on a suggestion from Mr. Doug Kenna ’45 that WPAOG bring the valorous combat deeds of West Point graduates in the Global War on Terror to the attention of the Corps of Cadets. Through an endowment created by Mr. Kenna and his wife, Jean, the award has been presented annually since 2006 and is named in honor of Second Lieutenant Alexander R. “Sandy” Nininger Jr. ʼ41, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in World War II.

In addition to the Silver Star and the 2021 Nininger Award, Enos has been awarded the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, and Army Commendation Medal with “V” device. Additionally, he is Ranger, Airborne, and Air Assault qualified and has earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, and the Joint Staff Identification Badge.

Currently, Enos is back at West Point serving as the Director of the Operations Research Center and teaches classes in system dynamics and Lean Six Sigma. He tells cadets that the challenges he faced at West Point as a cadet, such as Beast Barracks, rigorous academics, getting punched in the face during boxing class, and being able to juggle all of those things prepared him with the agility and resiliency he needed to win that day in Iraq.

“You need two things to win on the battlefield, the skill and the will to win,” Enos told cadets. “You gain the skill by preparing, training, and focusing on the fundamentals. The will is something else. It comes from knowing thousands of graduates who form the Long Gray Line stand behind you. It comes from knowing your soldiers are descendants of the Minutemen who fought at Lexington and Concord, the Buffalo Soldiers who secured the West, and the Rangers who scaled Pointe Du Hoc. You will go on to graduate in a few months, or in a few years, and you will win on whatever battlefield you wind up fighting on, because the Long Gray Line has never, and will never, fail our country.” SEE PHOTOS FROM THE WEEKEND