Very few people have the courage and resilience to both serve and sacrifice for their country.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shane Gandy, the company operations officer for Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), is one of those few. While serving in Afghanistan in 2010 Gandy survived an ambush involving an improvised explosive device made from more than 150 pounds of homemade explosive. Among Gandy’s injuries were the partial amputation of his right hand and the shattering of both of his legs.
“I was fortunate in my situation, we had our battalion surgeon, Lt. Col. (Dr.) Shawn Alderman, on this patrol and none of my guys were killed,” Gandy said. “I took the brunt of the IED and of the injuries. I’ll take that every day and twice on Sunday.”
Fighting through the pain and those who thought he couldn’t get back into combat, Gandy’s determination won out and he got back into the fight. Something that didn’t go unnoticed.
Gandy’s contributions over his 23 year career was not lost on the Special Forces community in which he served. Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott Howell, U.S. Special Operations Command vice commander, presented Gandy the 2017 Peter J. Ortiz-OSS Award at the William J. Donovan Award Dinner in Washington D.C. Oct. 21.
The award, named for the most decorated World War II Marine, Col. Peter Ortiz, is presented annually by the Office of Strategic Services Society, a group dedicated to preserving and honoring the legacy of the World War II organization recognized as the predecessor to the Special Forces.
“This is clearly a man, like Colonel Ortiz, who likes to be in the thick of things and continues to work tirelessly in defense of our great nation,” Howell said of Gandy.
Gandy humbly accepted the prestigious award on behalf of the quiet professionals he’s served with throughout his career and gave credit to the hidden brothers and sisters of Special Operations.
“Not a day’s gone by that when I don my Green Beret, I somehow feel unworthy of the legacy entrusted to me from these giants who came before,” Gandy said.
Suffice to say, he viewed his survival not as a signal that his service to his country had been completed, but rather as an opportunity to continue to fight.
“My goal was to finally be put in a category where they were actually fixing me; putting things back together enough that I would get the most of what remained” Gandy said.
Gandy chose to endure years of painful surgeries and rehabilitation with one goal in mind — to return to the force. Initially, while in the hospital small victories seemed to carry the day. For the first time in more than a year, he was able to walk without pain and without a limp.
That’s when Gandy began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Never knowing if he’d actually ever be able or capable to return, Gandy used his recovery time to both lead and mentor other injured service members as well as service providers.
In addition to serving as a patient advocate for wounded Soldiers, he provided feedback to the 1st SFG Tactical Human Optimization, Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning team staff — known as THOR3 — and Madigan Army Medical Center on the most effective methods for caring for combat injured Soldiers.
“Some of the best medicine I received was being back in my unit amongst my brothers” Gandy said. “The THOR3 program is an amazing program, coupling a facility, strength conditioning coaches and physical therapist all under the same roof.”
It was being around his like-minded, unforgiving, cut zero slack, no excuse accepted teammates in the Special Forces community that finally made Gandy feel like he was home.
“He was not only an inspiration to the therapy and coaching staff, but he was able to help numerous patients struggling with similar issues, and continues to do so today,” said Anja Rapp, a THOR3 sports orthopedic clinical specialist.
“I became the intersection of these two disciplines” Gandy said. “The strength coaches, physical therapist and I would get together and modify my workouts to fit my needs and my degraded abilities. They are every bit as responsible for my recovery as the doctors who put me back together. This facility is where the magic happened.”
Once medically cleared, Gandy returned to Afghanistan in 2013-2014 where his expertise was utilized as a member of Special Operations Task Force-West, Afghanistan, as the targeting and affects cell leader.
Humility appears to be among professionalism, competence, resilience, and patriotism in defining Gandy.
“Since 2004, it’s been an honor to have known and worked with Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shane Gandy,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Gomlak, commander of 2nd Battalion, 1st SFG.
Gandy credits U.S. Special Operation Command’s policy of retaining injured troops and recognizes their commitment to their own values when they say, “Troops are more important than hardware.”