On 28 June 2017, a quiet professional and Special Operations Forces (SOF) legend was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame. The name Rick Lamb is well known among older soldiers in Special Forces and the Ranger Regiment but the average person in the SOF enterprise has no idea who he is and what he has done for his nation.
Rick Lamb was born and raised in Iowa in a family with extensive history in military service, and that legacy guided a young man through one of the most amazing careers in military history. In 1978 at the age of 18, Rick enlisted in the Iowa National Guard where he was encouraged by the unit’s Noncommissioned Officers (NCO) and Vietnam Veterans to go on active duty. Following his heart, Rick joined the U.S. Army under the Airborne Ranger option, and completed Infantry Advanced Individual Training and Airborne Training at Ft. Benning, Georgia–starting him on his journey.
Upon graduation, he was assigned to the 1st Ranger Battalion, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, and it was this tour in 1/75th Rangers that changed him. He was involved in the Ranger’s first integration of motorcycles, vehicles, and fixed wing aircraft, and development of missions, relationships, tactics, techniques, and procedures that survive to this day. Then, in 1980, Corporal Lamb supported Operation Eagle Claw (Iranian hostage rescue mission) during which he got his first taste of combat operations.
In 1984, then Staff Sergeant (SSG) Lamb was assigned to the United Nations Command Support Group – Joint Security Area (UNCSG-JSA) at Pan Mun Jom, Korea. Korea was the first of many overseas assignments and while there Rick met the love of his life–wife Heiran–who became a tremendous partner in life and a solid base for Rick to lean on and often his “Care Giver” while recovering from wounds and injuries. Rick also fell in love with the Korean culture and people (and is actually currently assigned there, again).
In 1984 in Korea’s Joint Security Area there were two military camps: Camp Liberty Bell and Camp Kitty Hawk. They are separated by a road and each camp had separate dining facilities with different menus. Like soldiers do, every day they would look at each dining facility’s menu to determine which camp had the best offerings. On 23 November 1984, Rick’s Platoon leadership decided to go across the road for lunch, leaving SSG Lamb in charge of the Quick Reaction Platoon.
On that day, Vasilii Yakovlevich Matuzok–a twenty-two year old translator in the Soviet embassy in Pyongyang, ran south across the Military Demarcation Line in a bid to defect. As the North Korean guards who had been escorting him pursued him into South Korea, small arms fire killed a South Korean soldier and wounded a U.S. soldier. Within minutes, approximately 40 North Korean People’s Army soldiers crossed the border with weapons and began searching for the Soviet defector.
In the absence of the Platoon Leader, SSG Lamb led a Quick Reaction Force platoon that faced intense enemy small arms fire and ultimately killed several North Koreans, secured the Soviet defector, and expelled the remaining North Koreans from the southern sector of the JSA. For his actions SSG Lamb was awarded a Silver Star and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
SSG Lamb went next to the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to Company C, 3d Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Fort Davis, Republic of Panama, which was located on the Atlantic side of the canal. On 20 December 1989, Operation Just Cause began. Rick’s team conducted helicopter assaults against critical targets at the Controlaria building outside of Panama City. Recently promoted SFC Lamb led a four-man assault team that destroyed the transmitters and antennas of the AM and FM radio stations of Radio Nacional. For his accomplishments Rick was awarded the Bronze Star.
Shortly after Operation Just Cause, 3d Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was directed to redeploy the majority of the battalion to Fort Bragg as part of the US reduction in forces in Panama – a sad day for Special Forces. Rick knew that with the loss of the majority of the battalion, things would never be the same so he started thinking about life after Panama. While still in Panama, he learned the LTG (Ret) Dave Grange was there on the Pacific side, and as his old boss and mentor Rick drove over to meet with General Grange.
While talking, the General asked Rick what he was going to do next. Rick told him that he had submitted countless DA 4187 forms to return to the Ranger Regiment but was denied every time. General Grange turned to his Command Sergeant Major and directed him to get SFC Lamb assigned to the Ranger Regiment, making him the first person in modern US history to serve in both regiments.
With new orders, Rick was assigned to the 3d Ranger Battalion. In 1993 Rick was a member of Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia, and that October he fought in a savage 12-hour street battle to rescue beleaguered comrades trapped in the city. Leading an un-armored Ranger security element that consisted of cooks, clerks and support personnel, he refused medical evacuation and continued to fight for seven hours after being gravely wounded – he was shot in the head.
He received a Joint Service Commendation Medal with “V” device and the Purple Heart and was shipped back to the US for surgery and recovery. It didn’t take long for him to recover, and afterwards, Rick asked to be assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (A) so he could go back to focusing on the African and Caribbean Areas of Operation.
In 1994, then Master Sergeant (MSG) Lamb participated in Operations Restore, Uphold, and Maintain Democracy in Haiti. Working with governmental, non-governmental, and private volunteer organizations, MSG Lamb was responsible for the administration of over 40,000 inhabitants and was critical to returning law, order, government, and infrastructure to the southern half of the island. This peacekeeping operation later became the basis for the successful execution of the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI).
If you stand near Rick Lamb long enough, something will happen. Looking for more adventure and the opportunity to experience another culture, Rick took the assignment to 1/10th Special Forces Group (A) in Stuttgart, Germany, where then Sergeant Major (SGM) Lamb led the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) Commander’s In-Extremis Force (CIF) during a critical period of its development as a world class capability, executing numerous, no-fail, immediate response, sensitive missions, including support to Operations Joint Forge, Joint Endeavor, and Noble Anvil in the Balkans. The CIF was constantly deployed to Africa and the Balkans, often splitting and going in both direction simultaneously – a leadership challenge that Rick embraced.
During his final active duty assignment, from January through April 2003, then Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Lamb was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) forward deployed in Jordan. As the battalion CSM, he ensured his men were resourced, rehearsed, and prepared for imminent combat operations in Iraq. CSM Lamb pushed to incorporate conventional forces into all facets of planning, understanding that the security of his men was dependent on their ability to remain mobile and not get decisively engaged with large enemy forces. He requested and received augmentation from the 2d Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment and Florida Army National Guard, training them in indirect fire operations to support breaching the border obstacles on D-Day, as well as Enemy Prisoner of War handling operations and combined arms live fire.
Following his retirement from the U.S. Army, Mr. Lamb looked for work. Rick wanted to “humble himself,” so for the first six months after retirement Rick dug ditches. Yep, you read that right. He told the hiring agency that he wanted to do manual, back-breaking labor in the Florida heat. After six months of ditch digging he decided to take a job with U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base as an Intelligence Analyst, where serving his nation as a Civil Servant. Rick worked hard and lead the development of the Special Operations Joint Intelligence Collection System, as a plank owner of the Global Special Operations Forces Network Operational Planning Team (OPT).
The OPT was directed to do a lot, but bar none the biggest challenge was the integration of the international SOF partners that were being assigned to USSOCOM. Rick was pulled out of his duties and directed to build a world class facility in the heart of USSOCOM that ensured the integration of our SOF partners, allowed for their national communication systems, and allotted space to plan multinational operations. It might sound like a simple mission, but the weight of the rules and regulations that must be complied with could sink a small island. Rick navigated through obstacles from multiple agencies to de-SCIF the workspace and have it accredited to national standards. As a result of those efforts, Mr. Lamb was designated USSOCOM’s 2012 Civilian of the Year.
CSM (Ret) Lamb’s career defines the special operations ethos, and is on his own a history of USSOCOM in microcosm: eight major combat operations on five continents; through the post-Vietnam era–from Operation Eagle Claw and the creation of USSOCOM through the Global War on Terror; and in two Ranger battalions, four Special Forces Groups, and numerous staff assignments. He was the first non-commissioned officer selected to “cross-walk” between the Special Forces and the Ranger Regiment, setting what should be the standard for future generations of special operators.
Wounded in combat and twice decorated for valor and gallantry in action, his contributions to the Nation are unparalleled. In Korea, he received the Silver Star and Combat Infantryman’s Badge for leading a quick reaction force into the Demilitarized Zone to expel a North Korean incursion. In Panama, he led a Ranger Rifle Company as a non-commissioned officer – a feat not accomplished since the Vietnam era – on an operation which captured 188 hostile prisoners, led to the surrender of an entire military zone, and earned him a Bronze Star. He has been the SOCOM Employee of the Year and in 2015 he received the coveted Bull Simons Award.
He has also been inducted into the Commando Hall of Fame and, just this week, the Ranger Hall of Fame.
“Wow” does not cover those unmatched accomplishments. CSM (Ret) Rick Lamb is currently living in Korea where he is assigned to Special Operation Command-Korea (SOCKOR), and in December 2017 he will return to his home in Tampa and become a critical component to the Global SOF Foundation staff. Rick Lamb started from humble beginnings and he has lived Ranger Creed. Along his journey Rick has touched a lot of people and changed a lot of lives of for the better.
In the Ranger Creed there is a portion that really jumps out. Always give 100% and then some. There is no doubt Rick Lamb has done, and is still doing, just that.
Watch Rick’s Bull Simons Award Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e9Bf6_FBfQ