By Jennifer Hartwig
Hunter Army Airfield Public Affairs
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Nov. 8, 2011) - Just weeks after returning from their fifteenth combat rotation in the current conflicts, the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger regiment honored two of their fallen brothers in a ceremony at the 1/75 Ranger Memorial, Nov. 4.
Staff Sgt. Jeremy A. Katzenberger, 26, and Sgt. Alessandro “Sandrino” Plutino, 28, both of Company B, were killed in firefights, two months apart, in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan.
“They were the best human beings I ever met — heart and soul,” said an emotional Sgt. Jason Clark, who served with both Soldiers in B Co.
Their names are now etched in Georgia granite beneath 39 other 1/75 Rangers who died in combat or during training. The 1/75 Ranger Memorial stands in the battalion courtyard as a constant reminder to current Rangers.
“You think about it every day,” said Staff Sgt. Andres Santiago, B Co., of the fallen Rangers. “They definitely weren’t giving up. They loved being Rangers, everyone here does. No one here’s ever going to quit.”
Staff Sgt. Katzenberger, of Weatherby Lake, Mo., enlisted in the Army in 2004. For more than six years, he served as a rifleman, automatic rifleman, team leader and Ranger squad leader with the 1/75 Rangers. He was a platoon leader with B Co., and was on his eighth deployment at the time of his death, June 14. He is survived by his wife, Colleen, and his son, Everett James, who live in Richmond Hill.
“They were great Rangers, great guys,” said Staff Sgt. Santiago. “When I first came to the platoon I was the new guys and Katz took me under his wing – he was the senior squad leader and showed [me] the ropes and was kind of a role model.
Sgt/ Plutino was a native of Pitman, N.J., and joined the Army in 2006 after graduating from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. At the time of his death, Sgt. Plutino was on his sixth deployment and was scheduled to return home two weeks later. His enlistment was scheduled to end in September; however, according to the Regiment commander, he voluntarily extended it to December to complete his deployment. He is survived by fiancé, Natalie Layton, and his parents, Dianne Hammond and Sandro Plutino.
“Sgt. Plutino reminded me of the Alpha team leader who, when you walked in and saw him you though ‘that’s a Ranger,’” said Staff Sgt. Santiago.
During the deployment, the battalion was part of 1,000 raids, 400 enemy kills and another 1,700 captured, according to Col. Michael Foster, the battalion commander.
“Staff Sgt. Katzenberger and Sgt. Plutino were both significant parts of that effort,” he said. “But they also constitute the terrible price that we pay.”