Colonel Tony Henderson, USMC
You have to wonder how many times in our lives we have brushed against greatness and never known it. That almost happened to me when I met a Marine Corps Colonel named Tony Henderson. He was pleasant, gracious, and had just taken the helm of the Warrior and Family Support post as a direct-report to the Chairman.
Only recently, while browsing through the Department of Defense website, did I stumble upon a story that took my breath away. It was about Col. Henderson.
Back in 2008, he was a Lieutenant Colonel stationed in Afghanistan.
“Just two months into his deployment in southern Helmand Province, Henderson, who was the Commander of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Division, was tasked to devise a combat plan to overrun a historic Taliban stronghold in the Gamshir area known as the Jugroom Fort. Jugroom Fort was a 19th century British fort, built out of mud, which spanned five kilometers and was surrounded by tunnels, machine-gun bunkers, minefield and IEDs. It was typically defended by 200-400 Taliban fighters at any given point in time.”(DOD)
As his Marines approached the fort (after several days of fighting), the Taliban began to attack the forces in the real echelon, effectively pinning the allies between two hostile forces. As Marines have done since the Corps began, Henderson ordered his troops forward – into the fort.
The DOD narrative continues, “‘Marines had to physically get the Taliban out of the Fort and it was the most vicious fighting I had ever seen,’ reflected Henderson. ‘The enemy had defensive positions in and outside the Fort, and grenades and rocket fire were exchanged between 10, 20 and 30 meters. ‘There were fighters and Marines all over the place. The enemy was around everyone and everyone was around the enemy.’”
After a lull in the action the Marines moved to a secure area. The next day the Taliban packed up and abandoned the fort. It was a major victory, won by tenacity and strong leadership.
I met him about four years later. His friendly handshake belied the warrior within. Col. Henderson was recently transferred, but I found this video of him in action earlier this year, still taking care of his troops.
I call that greatness. Col. Tony Henderson is our hero of the week. Semper Fi, Colonel.
(For the complete story of the battle Jugroom Fort, click here.)