Highway to be Named After Spec Ops Sgt. Maj. James “Ryan” Sartor

credit: U.S. military

Highway 24 in El Paso County has had a section dedicated to fallen Green Beret Sergeant Major Sartor thanks to the efforts of the Falcon American Legion Post, and two El Paso County legislators.

The section between Garrett Road and Elbert Road is to be renamed ‘SGM James Gregory Ryan Sartor Memorial Highway’.

Sartor had served on a number of tours of Afghanistan and Iraq and died in 2019 from injuries sustained while facing enemy fire.

The Sergeant Major, who was forty years old, was part of the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), out of Fort Carson, Colorado. The incident took place in Faryab Province.

The Groups’ Commander said at the time that Sartor was a soldier who led his men from the front and that he had been, “a beloved warrior who epitomized the quiet professional.”

US soldiers look out over hillsides during a visit of the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Scott Miller at the Afghan National Army (ANA) checkpoint in Nerkh district of Wardak province.  THOMAS WATKINS/AFP via Getty Images
US soldiers look out over hillsides during a visit of the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Scott Miller at the Afghan National Army (ANA) checkpoint in Nerkh district of Wardak province.  THOMAS WATKINS/AFP via Getty Images

He joined the army back in 2001 as an infantryman with the 3rd Infantry Division. Following training and study he passed the Special Forces qualification in 2005 when he was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group in 2005. He travelled to Afghanistan with the Battalion in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 and 2017.

Faryab, Afghanistan had been seeing an increase in insurgent activity over recent years and has needed increased manpower from the Pentagon, training Afghan Special Forces and accompanying them on selected missions.

Sergeant Major Sartor’s wife Deanna spoke out after the announcement of the memorial to tell the press that her husband would not have expected such an honour.

“He was in the Army for the other soldiers, to take care of them,” she said, “I drive this highway every day to work and…it would be an extraordinary honour to see his name up there,”

The Army says Sartor served in seven deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Army says Sartor served in seven deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She also paid tribute to the kindness of her friends and neighbours who had helped to sustain her throughout the weeks and months following the loss of her husband.

One such neighbour was Colorado State Representative Tim Geitner who worked with the American Legion Post to propose the memorial. The name change went before the State Legislature and was passed by the Senate on the 11th February 2020.

Soon eight miles of Highway 24 will bear the name of Sergeant Major James Gregory Ryan Sartor, just as soon as the Highways Department approve the design for the signs.

The stretch of road runs right through Sartors neighbourhood where many members of his family still live.

In this photo taken on June 6, 2019, a US military Chinook helicopter lands on a field outside the governor’s palace during a visit by the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, and Asadullah Khalid. THOMAS WATKINS/AFP via Getty Images
In this photo taken on June 6, 2019, a US military Chinook helicopter lands on a field outside the governor’s palace during a visit by the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, and Asadullah Khalid. THOMAS WATKINS/AFP via Getty Images

While most motorists may never notice or realize the sacrifice made by Sartor, Chip Kossow, Junior Vice Commander at the Post is insistent that “it will mean everything to (Deanna) and her family.”

The Sergeant Major was also awarded the Bronze Star medal with three oak leaf clusters, Defence Meritorious Service medal and Joint Service Commendation medal. Following his death Sartor was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart.

The US Special Forces Green Berets are designed to carry out specialist tactical warfare roles including counterinsurgency and direct action with special emphasis on language, cultural and training roles overseas.

The group also specialises is combat search and rescue, manhunts and psychological ops. Many of their missions fall under the banner of “unconventional warfare” and have proven fertile ground for military thriller writers over the years.

Twenty-thousand American Military personnel have been wounded since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan more than eighteen years ago while more than 2,400 have lost their lives.

14,000 US troops remain in the country supporting counter-terrorism operations, advising and training local Afghan security forces.

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The CIA’s Special Ops Group has been known to recruit from the Green Berets and joint operations have been held since the Vietnam War. Many of their operational methods and training activities remain classified.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE