Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding of Groesbeck, Texas, has toured Afghanistan and Iraq and earned the Silver Star, the U.S. military’s third-highest combat award; and as of July, he is the first one-legged soldier to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course (SFSC).
According to a U.S. Army news story, in April 2008, Walding and nine other Special Forces (SF) soldiers from a 3rd Special Forces Group (SFG) assault team were attacked by the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin while searching for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Shok Valley. During the almost seven-hour firefight, an estimated 150–200 insurgents were killed. The ten members of the assault team were each awarded the Silver Star in December 2008 for their courageous actions. Walding, one of several team members injured, took a bullet through his right leg under his knee.
While recuperating, Walding worked as an assistant instructor at 3rd SFG’s sniper detachment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. But in order to become a full-time instructor, he had to complete the SFSC at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. The seven-week SFSC teaches sniper marksmanship, semiautomatic shooting, ballistics theory, and tactical movement. Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Owens, an SFSC instructor in 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, emphasized the importance of these skills, and said that completing the course requires soldiers to push themselves to the limits.
“There was never a doubt that Walding would do well in this course,” Owens was quoted as saying. “He is extremely motivated, and that never dropped during the course. He never asked for special treatment; he did the same training as everyone else and scored well in all the exercises.”
Walding is now hoping to work his way back to a place on an operational SF detachment.