Two 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers were killed in action Thursday by an improvised explosive device during dismounted operations in Zharay District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
1st Sgt. Russell R. Bell, 37, of Tyler, Texas, and Staff Sgt. Matthew S. Sitton, 26, of Largo, Fla., were Paratroopers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
1st Sgt. Bell joined the Army on January 24, 1996 as an Infantryman, attending One Station Unit Training and U.S. Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Ga. before reporting to Camp Casey, Korea for his first assignment.
After spending a year in Korea, 1st Sgt. Bell reported to Fort Bragg where he served at various levels in 1st Bn., 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment for more than five years and then transitioned to his drill sergeant duties at Fort Jackson, S.C. Following his tour at Fort Jackson, 1st Sgt. Bell returned to the airborne community with the 508th PIR in Italy and subsequently returned to Fort Bragg where he served as a 1st Sgt. for more than three years in two different units, most recently with HHC, 1st Bn., 508th PIR. This was his fourth combat deployment to Afghanistan over the course of seven years.
"1st Sgt. Russell Bell was one of the best all around leaders I have had the privilege of serving alongside in over 18 years of military service." said Lt. Col. Ced Carrington, 1-508th Battalion Commander. "His presence alone made each day brighter. He constantly shared stories that put smiles on Troopers' faces. He always looked for opportunities to make those around him laugh - particularly during tough situations. 1st Sgt. Bell made a difference every day and all who worked anywhere near him were immediately drawn to his personality."
1st Sgt. Bell's training and accomplishments include Airborne School, Air Assault School, Warrior's Leader Course, Advanced Leader's Course, Drill Sergeant School, Jumpmaster School, U.S. Army Ranger Course and the Senior Leader's Course.
His awards include the Bronze Star Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal with five bronze knots, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon with the numeral three, the NATO medal, the Drill Sergeant Identification Badge, the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, and the Air Assault Badge
Staff Sgt. Sitton joined the Army on March 2, 2006 as an Infantryman, attending Basic Training and Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Ga. and joined 4th Brigade in August 2007. This was his second combat deployment to Afghanistan.
His battalion commander, Lt. Col. Ced Carrington regarded him as "One of the battalion's most proficient and well-trained Leaders. The bond he developed with his team serves as a testament to how much he was loved and respected by the Troopers who served beside him. His no-nonsense approach towards accomplishing tough tasks was commendable. There was no task that he could not accomplish."
Staff Sgt. Sitton's accomplishments and training include Airborne School, Long Range Reconnaissance Course, U.S. Army Ranger Course, U.S. Army Sniper School, Warrior's Leader Course and Advanced Leader's Course.
His awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal with one knot, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with a campaign star, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Ribbon with the numeral two, the NATO medal, the Combat Action Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge and the Parachutist Badge.
The 4th Brigade Command Team, Col. Brian Mennes and Command Sgt. Maj. William Forro shared this statement "1st Sgt. Bell and Staff Sgt. Sitton are American Patriots who were part of an initiative to remove the Taliban influence on a key sub-district in Zharay, the Nation's main effort. They significantly contributed to the accomplishments of this righteous endeavor and we are indebted to them and their families for their sacrifices."