Of All the Rangers to Get Killed….

Avonye ChisholmNo disrespect to the illustrated Ranger, SSG Avonye Chisolm. But he could have been in a pretty safe job — he was a kid with a GED who joined the Army to be a Culinary Specialist, which is what the bureaucracy calls a cook. Thousands of kids do that every year.

But… if you look at the image, you’ll see the rare combination (but fully earned on his part) of the tan Ranger beret and cook’s whites. Because he wasn’t content to sit in a mess hall (“dining facility”) and sling hash through the boring expedient of opening tray-packs.

He volunteered, and took on a challenge, and kept volunteering. Five times he went overseas to Operation Enduring Freedom. He attended the tough Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP-1) with a cohort of would-be Rangers from combat and support specialties alike, and completed the course. (A continuation, RASP-2, is demanded of combat leaders only).

A U.S. Army Ranger died as the result of injuries sustained during an airborne proficiency jump August 24 at Galahad Drop Zone. Staff Sgt. Avonye John Cavon Chisolm, 26, sustained serious injuries during the airborne operation; he was transported to the nearest military treatment facility; then air-lifted to Memorial Health University Medical Center, Savannah, Georgia. He died August 25.The incident is under investigation. Chisolm was assigned to Company E, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., as a Culinary Specialist Non-Commissioned Officer.

via U.S. Army Ranger died during training | Article | The United States Army.

He joined the Army in 2008, and volunteered for the Rangers right out of school. He appears to have had no assignments other than the 3rd Ranger Battalion and the 1st Battalion.

For a young guy, he liked going to leadership and logistic schools:

His military education includes the Basic Airborne Course, Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1, Basic Leader Course, the Unit Prevention Leader Course, Lean Six Sigma Course-Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma Course-Green Belt, Demonstrated Logistics Course, the Advanced Leader Course and the Culinary Skills Advanced Course. He was a certified ServSafe Food Protection Manager.

The jump accident that took his life is a reminder that even the support guys in SOF are expected to keep these qualifications and currencies up, and that, as safe as the military has made things like parachuting (“relative safety”), it hasn’t made it “safe” at all (“absolute safety”).

His battalion commander, LTC Robert S. Brown of 1/75, had a powerful statement:

Staff Sgt. Avonye Chisolm represented the best of our Ranger leaders. He had an impact on every Ranger in this Battalion through his tireless work ethic, positive attitude and contagious smile. He made us feel like we could shoulder more than our fair share of the task, because he always led from the front. His loss will be felt across the organization and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

One hopes his grieving family will find some comfort in the pride they can take in that statement.

And one hopes Chisolm’s soul will find eternal rest.

28 thoughts on “Of All the Rangers to Get Killed….

  1. Quill_&_Blade

    I wonder if he knew he would be good at the other skills. I’m sure he was genuinely interested in culinary arts; I can attest that it is an art form, but serendipity is quite an interesting term. You set out for this, and discovery something else along the way. Meanwhile, some of us struggle to be good at one thing. What a loss.

  2. Kirk

    I’ve never disrespected the cooks or mechanics; some of those bastards are truly magnificent combat soldiers. A REMF is someone with a REMF mindset, who would crawl into a hidey-hole when the bad guys come into the perimeter–A true soldier is that cook or wrench-turner who turns to with their individual weapons, and then gleefully engages the enemy. Some of those guys could give the average grunt a run for his money, in terms of raw aggression and dedication to duty.

    Which is what pisses me off with the “budget triage” they pull on “rear-echelon elements” , these days. In my view, every single soldier ought to be trained and equipped to the same standards as the line infantry, because God alone knows when they’re going to be called on to fight. If you’re in uniform, in theater? You’d best plan on being a combatant, because the enemy damn sure considers you one. And, the easier a target that you and your leaders make you, the more likely it is you’re going to be engaged. These days, the enemy tends to bypass the front-line troops because they know they’re going to have their asses handed to them.

    1. 3000£ of education

      UPL is urinalysis training. It does make you chief pee pee watcher, but I’d rather do that than go to the sexual assault courses. Every company has to have two UPL guys.

      Hognose, any word on what sort of malfunction killed this fine NCO? I assume that as a SSG in regiment he was an experienced jumper.

      As for the statment, LTC Brown was my old battalion commander. He’s well spoken, extremely fit, and a guy I’d follow anywhere. But from a distance. Because I can’t run 5 min miles anymore and he can.

      1. Stacy0311

        The Army has Sexual Assault Courses?
        I thought it was all OJT or you only got to attend once you made Major or Flag rank
        Is the Sexual Assault Course like Air Assault? Do you get a badge at the end of it?

    2. TF-BA

      I vote that unit prevention leader is more MOS specific. Something akin to Spoilage and Contamination prevention. Someone has to be the go to guy on temps, power interruptions, safe ice machines, food bourne illnesses e.g. salmonella and keep all of the programs up to date for inspection. I’m thinking a food “RSO” as in he prevents problems by inspecting, training and insuring compliance. Seems right inline with E-6 also.

      I’m sure there is a navy CS1/2 collateral duty of similar responsibility. There are normally (in the navy) Corpsmen who do the actual institutional testing and inspection of food service equipment, procedures and facilities.

      So without any googling my vote is for Food Safety List Guy. Specifically highlighting the N and the G from the Ranger Creed.

      “Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.”

      “Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.”

      If we didn’t already understand; no one cares how your food tastes, but if you sideline a hundred dudes because of incompetence it’s hard to hide. I’m just speculating.

      1. redc1c4

        “Something akin to Spoilage and Contamination prevention. ”

        that would be “Field Sanitation Team” training…


  3. redc1c4

    logistic courses are important, especially if you are in Food Service, Maintenance, etc, but actually anywhere.

    “Before the first shot has been fired, the Quartermaster has already determined the outcome of the battle.” (Rommel or Guderian, i can’t remember)

    amateurs study tactics: professional study logistics. “everyone”

  4. SPEMack

    Christ, what a waste. RLTW. I hope to buy that guy a beer in Valhalla one day. And perhaps then someone can cook him breakfast.

    1. TF-BA

      That is exactly the right sentiment. I’ve been working on bacon scrambled egg bagel sandwiches for about 10 years now and I want HIM to tell me how I’m doing when I die. Otherwise I have to depend on Julia Child and her french cuisine mindset.

  5. John Distai

    I’m looking at this from a different perspective. I work in a white collar environment where I walk through a cafeteria on my way to my office. It is staffed with cooks and other culinary services employees. They are all very friendly and nice. Day after day, they serve a bunch of white collar people that are much more highly paid than they are. But what separates them from the people they serve? Education opportunities. With my background, I could have just as easily been doing those jobs instead of the one I do.

    Here we have this guy who enlists to be a cook. We need cooks, of course. But was this his first choice? Or was he from an environment where that was all he thought he could be in life? Perhaps all he saw as a child was unemployed people or people in service jobs. A cook may be his perceived ceiling in life.

    Then he gets into the Army, sees that he has educational opportunities, and he takes them. He obtains some pretty admirable course completions (Rangers, Six-sigma black belt, etc.). He may come out of the Army qualified to be a restaurant manager, or realize that he is capable to do anything else he sets his mind to. He is no longer bound by whatever cultural programming he may have been raised with.

    Now granted, I don’t know what kind of environment the guy was raised in, so I may be projecting my experiences on to him. Regardless, I find these sorts things fascinating. It is a loss.

    1. Y.

      But what separates them from the people they serve? Education opportunities.

      Depends on what sort of white collar job. Science has proven what has been known to men since time immemorial – that intelligence can not be increased through education.

      You can’t learn certain skills, for example mathematics, if you don’t possess the requisite brainpower. Even lesser skills, like say, engineering, usually require an IQ of 115 or so at the very least.
      You also need drive and opportunity, though the latter isn’t an issue anywhere in the developed world.

      Maintaining that it is ‘only education’ is something that only a creationist has a right to say.

  6. staghounds

    Mr. Distai, I like to think that was his story. But then some people love to cook!

    Thank you for showing us this well lived life.

  7. Pathfinder

    Is this another fatality involving the T-11? The article didn’t say.

    And UPL is the urinalysis course.

  8. James Sullivan

    What a terrible loss. That was the profile of a man who ached to excel and seized every chance to do so. There aren’t enough men like him anymore. My prayers for the man and his family.

    May he rest in peace.

  9. Aesop

    In looking at Chisholm’s posted c.v., I am reminded of the words of Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege:
    “This is not the work of a cook.”

    Chisholm was clearly a Ranger, in every sense of the honor, merely serving as a cook.

    And unlike the Hell of Kipling’s Gunga Din “where it’s always double drill and no canteen”, Chisholm has at last reached the point where he’s not waking up at 4 AM to make the donuts, and may now sleep in mornings.

    Despite his tragic loss, he died at the end of his abbreviated span of years a better man than likely anyone he grew up with will ever be, and that isn’t inconsequential.
    The only pity is that the prancing poncey current Army leadership will probably never name a dining facility after him as they ought.
    If the Regiment didn’t at least sing him out at a unit wake to Blood On The Risers, they should be flogged.

    1. 11B-Mailclerk

      -That- is a skinny cook you can trust.

      Went to the Mess Sergeant. Got on my knees.
      Mess Sergeant! Mess Sergeant! Feed me, please!
      Mess Sergeant said with a big ol’ grin.
      If ya wanna be Infantry ya got be thin!

      As to 4am sessions of donut making, he is probably proudly whoopn up the donuts and omlettes for the early birds in Valhalla, who are very glad to have his company.

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