Paul Carron RIP

Updated: September 29, 2010

“Quit smirking,” I snarled at the plebe in front of me. “I’m not sure why you think it is funny that you just got your ass kicked.” The kid actually hadn’t gotten his ass kicked, but he had just lost one of his four mandatory plebe boxing matches in a close decision. Apparently a lot of other people had joked with him about it – how much boxing sucked, etc. and he thought that I was going to have the same reaction when he explained how he had done.

“You should be fucking pissed off man. I’m not sitting here telling you that you need to be a professional boxer or that you should go and sulk in the corner, but you just got beat up because someone else either had more skill or wanted it a hell of a lot more. Is that funny?”

“No, sir,” came the prompt response.

“Look man. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I know what combat is like. I’ve got one year on you and I sure as shit haven’t been there, but I know that, if nothing else, finding that killer instinct when someone is trying to knock you the fuck out is important.”

“Yes, sir,” he agreed.

“You need to make a decision man. You’re either gonna be a guy that laughs off failures or you’re gonna be a guy that learns from them and works hard so they never happen again. I know if I had to follow someone out the back of an airplane into combat I’d sure as shit want the guy who had done everything he could to be the best warrior he could, and not the guy who laughed off his failures as unimportant. How about you?”

It was my sophomore or “Yearling” year at West Point. I had successfully finished the dreaded plebe year and Camp Buckner, which meant it was time for me to have my own plebe and have my first military leadership position. My roommate and I each were given two kids to look after – it was our job to teach them how to succeed as a freshman at West Point. One of our four was a skinny, baby-faced kid with big ears by the name of Paul Carron. He was the subject of my current boxing is equal to life rant.

I won’t lie. When I first feasted my eyes on Paul I thought, “This kid is gonna have a rough time.” So my roommate Nate and I did all things that Yearlings do to make sure he’d succeed. We pushed him on knowledge, we tore apart his room and uniform to make sure they wouldn’t get in real trouble with the upperclassmen, and we PTed the crap out of him. The whole time I was waiting for the kid who looked like he was twelve to crack.

He just never did.

He would get this scrunched up look on his face, find a new deeper reserve, and keep moving. Over time we realized that Paul, the son of a Sergeant Major, was just never going to quit. Later that year, so impressed with the way he had performed, we asked him to represent our company in Sandhurst – an extremely rigorous international military competition that takes place over a nine mile obstacle course. It struck me as he completed the course next to me and we all collapsed from exhaustion that this baby faced kid had become a leader in his class. He worked hard, cared passionately about those around him, had maintained the NCO sensibility bestowed on him from his dad, and would not quit in the face of adversity or back down to any challenge. Paul Carron was going to be a great officer.

Years later, as I was going through the Captains Career Course, I bumped into Paul at Fort Benning. He had just taken a job as a platoon leader in 3/75 – he would go on to be an XO there as well. We grabbed lunch to catch up and I realized that while he looked every bit the part of the kid, he had changed markedly. His time in the real military had sharpened his focus on the need to train hard and take care of his soldiers, but he was also keen on how he fit into the Army and how he could make a difference in the larger organization. He sat there for an hour and explained his outlook on what he would contribute as I listened intently and provided what feedback I could. It was one of those awesome moments where you realize the kid you used to mentor had surpassed you as an officer.

We went our separate ways and bounded the occasional message back and forth, but in short order Army life pulled us both away to our own challenges and I lost sight of him again. Years later, I’d receive multiple emails from my West Point classmates letting me know that a letter Paul had written to the Washington Times had been published. The letter, included below, called several in the Hollywood and political arenas to task for their absurd comments about our Armed Forces. I couldn’t possibly have been prouder.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR. Published in the Washington Times 24 March 2006.

I was fascinated to watch the exchange between actor Richard Belzer and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (“Into the lion’s den,” Inside Politics, yesterday). I have completed four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I participated in the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and parachuted into Iraq three years ago this month. Most recently, I had the privilege of leading an infantry company in Mosul, Iraq. I use this as context, not authority, because, according to Mr. Belzer, participating in a conflict indicates a lack of understanding.

When I was younger, my father made me read a book by James Michener, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri.” When I finished, I told him the book was about naval aviators during the Korean War. He looked at me a little disappointed and told me I had missed the point. The book to him was not about pilots or the Korean War — it was about the bravery of men. At the end of the book, the captain of an aircraft carrier is watching his men suit up for yet another mission when he asks himself out loud, “Where do we get such men? Why is America lucky enough to have such men?”
Today, while actors and talk-show hosts see fit to broadly characterize the men and women of the armed forces as “19- and 20-year-old kids who couldn’t get a job,” we should be asking the same question.

I wish Bill Maher, Richard Belzer and the young adults of my generation who comment from campuses and talk shows all over the country and mistake knowledge for understanding could see what’s really happening over there. I welcome their right to disagree, but I wish they would educate themselves well enough to disagree intelligently.

They should see a 22-year-old spend two hours sitting on a hard concrete floor negotiating an electricity contract or generator plan only to hit an improvised explosive device emplaced by the very people he seeks to help; a 19-year-old female medic advise a 19-year-old Iraqi mother on how to treat her child’s ear infection; or men still dazed from a bomb blast that killed a friend and wounded seven others return from a mission and roll up their sleeves to give blood for the wounded, then clean the blood out of their vehicle to do a night patrol.

They do it without ceremony or formality; they do it because it is their job and they are driven by sense of purpose few in other professions can understand.

“Where do we get such men?” From all over — not just America, but from many other countries, but I know for sure the dedication required to do what they do every day is equal to the demands of any “real job.”

U.S. Army

At this point Paul was a Ranger Instructor at 5th Ranger Training Battalion. Coincidentally, one of the Duke students I had mentored had just returned for a weekend to celebrate his graduation from Ranger School in Durham. I asked him how it had gone and got the usual Ranger School gripe stories. He paused though and told me that one guy had been particularly hard on him and that he thinks the guy knew me.
“Oh yeah?” I asked.

“Yeah man. This guy was a Captain but he acted like an NCO on crack. If anyone fucked around even a little he was on them. Always relaying stories he had experienced. He just kept saying, ‘The work you do here makes all the difference when you get out there. You have to make a choice. Are you going to be the guy that just tries to slide by and brush off your failures as good enough or are you going to be a freakin warrior and try to crush every mission? I know who I’d want to follow. How about you?’”

“What was his name?” I asked.

“Captain Carron,” he responded.

“Paul Carron?” I asked.

“Yeah that’s it!”

It was my turn to smirk.

A year later, Paul was awarded the MacArthur Leadership Award for exemplary service and leadership, an honor awarded to only a handful of officers each year. He was on his way to making those changes he had begun to form early in his career. I’d expect nothing less.

Paul died in Afghanistan on September 18th, 2010, three days after his 33rd birthday. It was his fifth deployment. He left behind his loving wife Susan, his two-year old daughter, Madeline, and his unborn son. He also left behind the hundreds, if not thousands, of soldiers, much like me, who had the pleasure and honor of serving with him and being touched by his passion, kindness, character, and devotion to duty. He is the best our country had to offer, and I miss him dearly.

Rest in peace my friend.




  1. Lextalionis

    September 29, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Warriors like Captain Carron make me proud to be both an American and a former member of our nation’s military. Captain Carron’s sacrifice was not in vain, no matter what the outcome of these wars is. Whenever a person teaches us what it means to take care of others, to push ourselves into the beyond, and to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves, that person has added to the fabric of our nation’s flag. Semper fidelis, RTLW, and Godspeed, Captain Carron.

    I for one will do my best to live up to your sacrifice by living the values you died for.

  2. Jill

    September 29, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for sharing, Nick. I am so sorry for our Country’s loss of such a great man. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  3. Ken

    September 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks Nick. I’ll make sure to share this with my squadmates.

  4. Bryan

    September 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I did NOT know Capt.Carron…but I had the HONOR to serve with many like him. While my Iraq tour was pretty quiet others I had served with were not as lucky on previous tours. These kids,many literally who could have been my sons, ARE the TRUE MEASURE OF THIS NATION. NOT the actors, whiney politicians, and long-haired leftists….but the Paul Carrons who stand and sometimes die for something bigger than themselves. AIRBORNE ALL THE WAY CAPTAIN AND REST IN PEACE.

  5. Eric

    September 29, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I served as an RI under CPT. Carron, absolutely every depiction of the man in this post is accurate. He was definitely what some would call a “hard man”, it was him in his truest form, it was in his blood. I won’t sit here and go on a tirade about how great of a man he was, all I’ll say is if he had asked me to go to the gates of hell with him. “Yes, Sir”.

  6. mindy1

    September 30, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Awww we lost a good one 🙁

  7. Dan Jordan

    September 30, 2010 at 8:37 am

    “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Paine- The Crisis 1776

    Rest in Peace Cpt. Carron and God Bless his family.

  8. Jim Alton

    September 30, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Thank you, thank you. My 15 year old grandson will be reading this tomorrow and again next week and perhaps every month untill I know that he kknows what it is to be a man of honor and something bigger than himself!

  9. Jacob Bullion

    September 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Rest in peace Sir! Thanks for sharing Nick.

  10. Jerry

    October 2, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Never Forget
    Always Faithful

  11. Neil

    October 2, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Well done, Nick. RIP Captain Carron.

  12. SFC Powers

    October 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I to served with MAJ Carron at 5th RTB. Outstanding Soldier Mentor Leader and Friend. You will be missed RLTW.

  13. Jonathan Popovich

    October 27, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Knew Paul when he was the Recon Platoon Leader for 2-325th AIR (82nd ABN)…I was a brand new Company FSO right out of RGR School and was introduced to him by the PL’s in the rifle company, a few of whom were West Point classmates of his. Paul was a special person and I was pained to learn of his loss…there are those guys that just leave a mark on everyone whose life they touch…he was one of those people. RIP Ranger.

  14. nacho

    July 27, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    i knew Cpt Carron i served in his company while he was in Washington i remember a day he wanted to prove what we are capable of if we tried hard enough he tide a tire to his waist a began to not only run but lead the entire company in a 5 mile run he was one tough mofo and i know the army is feeling the lose my condolences to his family and friends it was an honor sir.

    • Vance Wine

      August 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

      HAHA NACHO…. I remember that day.. he was a beast… Awesome leader.

    • SFC Togiailua, Olene

      August 14, 2011 at 2:39 am

      Thanks Nick,
      I was blessed to served as a Squad Leader in CPT Carron’s Company BCO 1-24 INF Deuce-Four 2004-2005. He was a really so called a “QUIET PROFESSIONAL” I knew a lot of vocal leaders and action. But CPT Carron is action with a soft spoken voice to accomplished every mission!!! You will be missed but you will never be forgotten. God blessed the Spouse and the childrens and the Families for the lost. I had alot of stories to tell about him, but i will cherished it and passed to my Soldiers before i retired. RIP CPT PAUL CARRON!! TOGIAILUA”S send there love..”BULLDOG 6″ RIP BULLDOG 31 over and out.

  15. Mac

    August 13, 2011 at 8:07 am

    He was a great commander to follow, set the standard high and still wanted more. Took command during my first deployment and right away you could see a change in the company which 1-24th IN was forever grateful. Took the company on a 5 mile run gut check breaking people off still while dragging a tire behind him. You will be missed.

  16. Mciranger

    December 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Just found out about this today, I was a private in CPT Carrons first platoon at Ranger Bat when he was a young butter bar. Rest in Peace Sir! RLTW.

  17. Jon

    December 4, 2011 at 2:56 am

    I got a lump in my throat towards the end. Awesome story, RIP.

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