First Sergeant James Meltz from Cropseyville, a New York Army National Guard Soldier who earned the Bronze Star for Valor in Afghanistan last year, will be the subject of a special "heroes" segment this Friday evening, Nov. 27, on "CNN Tonight." The segment is expected to be broadcast around 7:50 p.m.
Meltz is also a New York State Trooper and belongs to the New York State Police Special Operations Response Team. The CNN feature will include video and digital photos taken in Afghanistan along with a sequence filmed this fall at the Guilderland Range during state police training and at the National Guard state headquarters at the Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
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Meltz earned the Bronze Star for Valor for organizing a successful defense whenhis company convoy was attacked on the evening of May 25th 2008 in Eastern Afghanistan, his unit was ambushed by insurgent forces from covered and concealed positions on high ground that ran parallel to the highway. An up armored humvee was struck by an anti-tank rocket and set on fire. First Sergeant Meltz helped get all occupants out of the stricken vehicle. He then used a machinegun to place effective suppressive fire against the enemy along with fire coming from other vehicles in the convoy which drove the insurgents behind a stone wall. Using an antitank rocket, First Sergeant Meltz destroyed the enemies' cover and forced them back into the open so they could be engaged.
During the three hour battle, Meltz was continually exposed to enemy machinegun, small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire as he rallied his men and distributed ammunition. As a result of his actions the enemy force was destroyed and no one in the convoy was injured.
The convoy was ambushed the following day and once again, Meltz and his unit commander led their unit through the fire, destroyed the enemy and completed the mission.
Meltz has also recently been named as this year's recipient of the George Van Cleave Military Leadership Award by the United Services Organization, Manhattan office. The award will officially be given at the USO's 48th Annual Armed Forces Gala & Gold Medal Dinner in New York City on December 9th. It is given annually to an enlisted member of each armed service branch in recognition of distinguished service, accomplishments and demonstrated leadership while deployed overseas.
In 2008, Meltz was tob Non-Commissioned Officer in the Ithaca-based Company D, 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The unit served as Security Force Company Delta under Western New York's 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry as part of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII. Meltz was presented with a Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device on Veterans Day last year at Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan for his actions following an enemy ambush the previous May.
He served in Iraq in 2004-5 with Troop E, 101st Cavalry of the New York Army National Guard based in Geneva and was awarded his first Bronze Star Medal.
He was born and raised in Columbia County and played football for Taconic Hills High School. He attended Jefferson County Community College and Louisiana State University and joined the Army in 1990. He was first assigned as an infantry scout in the 2nd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment. He completed Ranger, Airborne and Air Assault School in 1994 and Pathfinder School in 1997.
He left active duty in 1998 and served in the Army Reserve, including service as a drill sergeant at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri in 1999-2000. He joined the New York Army National Guard in 2003. He performed homeland defense duties as a member of his Guard until it was mobilized in 2004 for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following his unit's return from Iraq in 2005, he was mobilized for Operation Jump Start in Arizona to help secure America's border with Mexico.
Over a nine-month period, SECFOR Delta safely completed more than 1100 separate convoy missions, including a record round trip operation that exceeded 1000 miles in distance extending from Kabul to Forward Operating Bases in south western Afghanistan.
During an awards ceremony on November 8, 2008 15 additional soldiers of the unit received Combat Infantryman's Badges and two others received Combat Action Badges which meant that more than 50 Soldiers of the company had received awards and badges as a result of their combat service. In addition, 13 members of the unit re-enlisted in the National Guard while serving overseas.
Meltz is married with one child.