NAME: SGT Brett D. Swank
DATE OF BIRTH: 31 Mar 1983
PLACE OF BIRTH: Harrisburg, PA
DATES OF SERVICE: 00 Aug 2001 – 24 Jan 2005
UNIT ASSIGNED: 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment
AWARDS: Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon and the Army Service Ribbon, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge
DIED: 24 Jan 2005 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
BURIED: Riverview Cemetery, Northumberland, PA
SUMMARY OF SERVICE:
SGT Brett Swank, 21, of Northumberland, Pa.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, Fort Polk, La.; killed Jan. 24 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position in Baghdad.
Soldier from Northumberland killed in Iraq
NORTHUMBERLAND, Pa. — A soldier from central Pennsylvania was killed by an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol in western Baghdad on Monday, his father said.
Sgt. Brett Swank, 21, of Northumberland, was stationed at Fort Polk, La., and went to Iraq in July. A graduate of Shikellamy High School, Swank was accepted to Colorado State University but deferred going because he wanted to complete his four years in the Army, Daniel J. Swank said.
An Army Ranger, he was nearing the end of his four years of service and hoped to join ROTC at Colorado State and leave the program as a lieutenant.
"He was a great role model for his younger brother. He was very upbeat and very positive," said Daniel Swank, 46, who communicated with his son several times a week over the Internet. "He was always positive. The guys with him were always positive."
Sgt. Swank was most recently home for 15 days over Thanksgiving.
"He wasn’t so much my son — he was more or less my best friend for those 15 days," Daniel Swank said.
While home on leave, Sgt. Swank also visited an elementary school where his stepmother is a third-grade teacher. The students were sending cards and letters to Swank and members of his unit.
"The children very much enjoyed his visit," teacher Judy Duke said. "He was very good with them."
Brett Swank Obituary
NORTHUMBERLAND - Brett D. Swank, 21, of 645 Wheatley Ave. was killed in action in Iraq on Jan. 24, 2005.
He was born March 31, 1983, in Harrisburg, the son of Daniel J. Swank of Northumberland and Debra M. (Roof) Santucci of Northumberland.
Brett was a 2001 graduate of Shikellamy High School, where he was a member of the Junior ROTC in grades 10 through 12. He also participated in the Upward Bound program at Bloomsburg University during his junior and senior years.
Brett enlisted in the Army in August 2001. He completed his basic and infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga., in December 2001. In February 2002, Brett completed his airborne training, also known as "jump school," at Fort Benning. While stationed at Fort Polk, La., with the 1-509 IN (ABN) Geronimos, he completed his Army Ranger training in October 2003 at Fort Benning. The 1-509 IN (ABN) was deployed to Iraq in late June 2004.
As a Geronimo, Sgt. Swank was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, NCO Professional Development Medal and the Army Service Medal. Sgt. Swank was awarded his Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Expert Infantryman's Badge. Additionally, Sgt. Swank was selected as NCO of the Month and NCO of the Quarter for the 1-509 IN (ABN).
He was a member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Lewisburg.
Brett played baseball in elementary school and soccer in middle and high school. He earned his Arrow of Light with Cub Pack 412 and was a Life Scout in Troop 412, Lebanon. Brett also enjoyed snowboarding.
Surviving, in addition to his parents, are his stepmother, Rebecca Swank; two brothers, Jonathan Swank and Andrew Santucci, both of Northumberland; one stepsister, Alicia Blett of Danville; maternal grandparents, Janet and Kenneth Roof Sr. of Lebanon; paternal grandmother, Sally Swank of Northumberland; maternal great-grandmother, Carlin Arnold of Lebanon; paternal great-grandmother, Ruth Swank of Northumberland; two aunts, Jean Davis and husband, Mike, of Lebanon and Patricia Spangler and husband, Glenn, of Mifflinburg; and five uncles, Ken Roof Jr. and wife, Susan, of Maryland, Mike and Dave Roof, both of Lebanon, Steve Roof and wife, Joanne, of Lebanon and Fred Roof of California.
He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, Daniel C. Swank; his paternal great-grandparents, Clyde Swank and Francis and Lenna Hummel; and his maternal great-grandparents, Frederick Arnold and William and Alice Roof.
Friends will be received from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 tonight and from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Eighth and St. Louis streets, Lewisburg, where a Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m. Thursday with the Rev. Patrick Shannon officiating.
Burial with full military honors will be in Riverview Cemetery, Northumberland.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Brett's memory may be made to the Sgt. Brett Swank JROTC Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Service First Federal Credit Union, 1207 Bloom St., Danville, PA 17821, or to the Boy Scouts of America, Pennsylvania Dutch Council, 630 Janet Ave., Suite B114, Lancaster, PA 17601.
Funeral arrangements are by the Jerre Wirt Blank Funeral Home, 309 Water St., Northumberland.
82nd Soldier, brother honors fallen Fort Polk heroes
By Chuck Cannon, Fort Polk Guardian staff writer
November 8, 2010
POLK, La. -- In January 2005, Fort Polk Soldiers Sgt. Brett Swank and Sgt. Andrew Brown, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, lost their lives in combat operations during a deployment to Iraq. After the unit returned to Fort Polk, the drop zone at Beauregard Regional Airport in DeRidder - often used by 1st Bn, 509th Inf Reg and other Fort Polk units - during rotational deployments at Fort Polk, was named Brown-Swank Drop Zone in honor of the two Soldiers.
At the time Swank was killed, his younger brother, Jonathan, was a junior in high school. After completing school, the younger Swank said he enlisted in the Army. "It's something I had thought about doing even before Brett was killed," Swank said. "After his death, I thought the least I could do was enlist and serve." Swank, who like his brother chose to attend airborne school, did his own rotation to Iraq as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, 18th Airborne Corps in 2008. "My parents were a little nervous, but they supported my decision," he said. "They were worried, but they were still proud; I think everyone in North Umberland, Pennsylvania was proud."
Jump ahead two years and Swank, now a sergeant, and the rest of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Abn Div, 18th Abn Corps, recently made a trip to Fort Polk to train for their role as the Army's global response force. While here, Swank decided to see how difficult it would be to make a parachute jump onto Brown-Swank DZ. Turns out, it wasn't too difficult at all.
"I got a call from the 82nd air ops asking about the possibility," said Fort Polk's G-3 Air Operations Officer Keith Morrow. "I thought it sounded like a great idea."
Morrow said he convinced his boss, who then spoke with Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commander Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough. "General Yarbrough gave his approval," Morrow said. "I checked with the Beauregard Airport and they had the room to do it, so I told their (82nd) air officer it was a go."
It was decided that Swank would be accompanied on the jump by Sgt. Christopher Fortin, a fellow Soldier in the 82nd Abn Div, Sgt. 1st Class Brad Moyer and Staff Sgt. Jason Simmons of the 509th Inf Reg, Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Stewart, Fort Polk G-3 Air NCO, and Staff Sgt. Jorge Abalos, Operations Group. The jump would take place Oct. 26 - weather permitting.
The day of the jump dawned bright and clear, but windy. There was some concern that wind would be an issue, but as the time on target approached, the wind died down to little more than a light breeze. As Swank and the rest of the jumpers went through their pre-jump routine, the Pennsylvania native said his excitement was growing. "When my brother was killed five years ago, I never thought I'd be a paratrooper one day, jumping on a drop zone dedicated to him," Swank said. "I talked to my mom and dad about it. They're both proud and excited."
As is one more Swank.
"I've got a younger brother who is also thinking about enlisting," Swank said. "He wants to go airborne also."
As Fortin put on his parachute, he said it was "cool" that Swank was allowed to make the jump on Brown-Swank DZ. "I didn't know his brother, but I know of him from when I was in the 509th," Fortin said. "When I got to Fort Bragg, we became friends."
Swank said he has a lot of friends in the 509th Inf Reg."When I meet someone from the 509th they always ask, 'Are you related to Sergeant Swank''" he said. "It's nice to know he's still remembered."
After donning their parachutes, the jumpers headed out via Blackhawk helicopter to their target - Beauregard Regional Airport's Brown-Swank DZ. As the Blackhawk passed over the DZ at 1,500 feet, the jumpers exited one by one, floating on thermals to their grassy landing spots - for the most part. Swank, who was given the honor of being the first jumper out, landed on the edge of the airport's tarmac, much to the delight of his fellow jumpers once they saw he was OK.
"I grabbed the way I wanted to, but I didn't see the tarmac behind me," Swank said, inspecting the new holes in his uniform. "My landing could have been better, but it feels great. There's no better way to describe it - minus the brush burn."
Moyer walked over and shook hands with Swank.
"Your brother was right here with us today," Moyer said.
"I know," Swank said. "And he's still messing with me. He dragged me across the tarmac. I'm surprised he didn't break my leg. But all in all, this is a day I'll never forget."
Part of Route 11 designated as the Sgt. Brett D. Swank Memorial Highway
Jul 3, 2010
Sgt. Brett Swank
HARRISBURG -- Governor Edward G. Rendell Friday signed House Bill 2253 designating a portion of Route 11 from the bridge carrying Route 11 over the Susquehanna River in Point Township, Northumberland County, known as the Barry King Memorial Bridge, to the Montour County line as the Sgt. Brett D. Swank Memorial Highway. Sgt. Swank, 21, of Northumberland, was stationed at Fort Polk, La., and went to Iraq in July 2004. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, Fort Polk, La., and killed on Jan. 24, 2005 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position in Baghdad.
A graduate of Shikellamy High School, Swank was accepted to Colorado State University but deferred going because he wanted to complete his four years in the Army.
An Army Ranger, he was nearing the end of his four years of service and hoped to join ROTC at Colorado State and leave the program as a lieutenant. State Rep. Merle H. Phillips, R-108. of RD2 Sunbury, was the author of the proposal.
"Sgt. Swank is a true hero who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country," Phillips said earlier. "His commitment, courage and sacrifice in defending our country should never be forgotten, and this highway designation in his memory is an appropriate way to ensure that his legacy lives on for future generations." Paul Ruane, commander of the American Legion Post 44, of Northumberland, approached Phillips with the request to name this part of Route 11 in honor of the Northumberland County hero.
The state Department of Transportation will be responsible for the placement and maintenance of signs marking the memorial designation.
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