Remembering Rangers Who Have Made the Ultimate Sacrifice
75th Ranger Regiment
Information and Sentiments
known to his family as Sandrino
By Jessica Driscoll/ Gloucester County Times Published: Monday, August 08, 2011, 10:20 PM
Looking down at a military photo of his son Sandrino on Monday, Sandro Plutino said softly, “He was so proud.”
Sgt. Alessandro ‘Sandrino’ Plutino, a U.S. Army Ranger from Pitman, was killed in action in Afghanistan Monday.
Alessandro “Sandrino” Plutino, 28, was in the final weeks of his sixth tour of duty as a U.S. Army Ranger when he was killed by enemy gunfire Monday in Afghanistan while leading his fellow Rangers in an assault.
Plutino — a Rifle Team Leader in B Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment according to the U.S. Army Ranger Association — was serving his third tour in Afghanistan after serving three tours in Iraq.
“He should have been out in March, but he left on this special mission March 7 — he said he had to,” said Plutino’s mother, Dianne Hammond. “He always wanted to be in the Army. On his good-bye cake there was a picture of him at four years old with his wooden gun and camouflage. He wanted to leave high school when he turned 18 to serve, but I wouldn’t let him. Then when 9/11 happened, he tried to leave college, but his uncle talked him out of it. After college, he signed up.”
Hammond said she and her family spoke to Plutino Sunday night when he called to reassure them he hadn’t been involved in Saturday’s helicopter crash in which 30 U.S. troops were killed. Twenty-two of them were Navy SEALs that were rushing to help Army Rangers who had come under fire.
Dianne Hammond (right) speaks about her son, Sgt. Alessandro ‘Sandrino’ Plutino, a U.S. Army Ranger who died in Afghanistan Monday, as Alessandro’s fiance Natalie Layton, and father, Sandro Plutino, embrace.
Plutino’s fiancee, Natalie Layton of Glassboro, said he seemed excited to come home.
“We’ve been together 10 years. We were supposed to get married next summer so we were planning everything out,” said Layton. “He was supposed to be done in the spring, but he went on this mission. His country meant more to him than anything else. If it was up to him he would’ve quit high school to go. He always said ‘This is my calling.’”
Layton said Plutino was “the strongest person I ever met.”
“We balanced each other out,” said Layton. “I’m so vulnerable, and he was always the strong one. When he loved something, he really put his mind to it. He loved his country, he loved his family, he loved all of us.”
“And we couldn’t have been prouder of him,” added Plutino’s older sister Brenna.
Hammond said, in addition to his commitment and patriotism, her son could be remembered as the kid who always had a smile on his face.
“Even when he was very young, he could just walk into a room and capture it,” said Hammond. “He was special. And I know every mother’s son is special, but he really was. People have been coming here to the house all day, his friends, his buddies from the motorcycle group he rode with. He loved to ride, he played football and wrestled, he was an all-American boy.”
Friends, educators and local officials also reflected on Plutino’s life Monday, recalling him as an outgoing student, gifted athlete and all-around “great kid.”
“This is a real loss to the whole community,” said Pitman Mayor Mike Batten, who coached Plutino in wrestling. “Our police department went over to his mother’s house this morning and I plan to go over later today when I can get myself together. Sandrino was an extreme hard worker, as evidenced by the fact that he was an Army Ranger, and he was the best of what this country can put out.”
Batten said he knows Plutino’s mother well and was a friend of his grandfather’s.
“It’s a wonderful family and such a sad day for them,” said Batten. “I’m going to ask the whole town to fly their flags in Sandrino’s memory.”
Plutino, a 2001 Pitman High School graduate, is also remembered fondly by school officials.
“He was a Kindle student from kindergarten through fifth grade, and he was always full of positive energy,” said Kindle School Principal Fran Yearwood. “He was a delight to have as a student, and we loved his whole family. I know he was always very athletic and a leader on the playground, and he was just an energetic, enjoyable student to have. This is just horrible news.”
Pitman Schools Superintendent Patrick McAleer said Plutino and his sister were former students of his when he taught at Pitman Middle School. He said Plutino was a “nice kid” with a “nice family.”
“Today, the entire town of Pitman is devastated by the news that Alessandro L. Plutino, a United States Army Ranger, was killed in action while proudly serving his country in Afghanistan,” said McAleer, in a statement issued by the school district Monday afternoon. “His teachers and classmates will always remember Sandrino as a popular and outgoing young man who was always quick with a laugh or smile. He was a committed student who also excelled as an athlete, participating in football and wrestling. The Pitman Public Schools and the entire Pitman community share in the loss of this dedicated and brave American. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Plutino family and the families of all those servicemen and servicewomen who are proudly serving America.”
McAleer noted that Plutino went on to wrestle at the collegiate level at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. After graduating from high school, Plutino first attended college at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. Dave Stawasz, associate director of media relations at Western New England University, confirmed that Plutino was enrolled there from fall 2001 to spring 2003 and that he was a member of the university’s wrestling and football teams. Articles from Wilkes University lists Plutino as a 2005 graduate, but calls to the university were not returned by deadline.
Ed Campbell from the Pitman VFW said the news of Plutino’s death was very sad.
“He is the 40th young man Pitman has lost over the years in various wars,” said Campbell. “I don’t know if another town our size has taken a bigger hit. It’s so upsetting. I served in Korea and every loss is like a punch in the gut. I want to stop putting monuments to our young people up in the park.”
Campbell noted, and Councilwoman Debra Higbee confirmed, that Plutino was not the first in his family to be honored among those lost. Navy veteran and Pitman resident Robert D. Hammond — an uncle of Plutino’s mother — was killed in action during World War II in 1944.
Even those who had never met Plutino mourned the loss.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Army Ranger Alessandro Plutino, who served his country with honor and distinction,” said U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo. “Too often, we here in America forget that our freedoms are not free, they are courageously protected by the men and women who wear the uniform. As the Pitman community remembers and honors Sandrino, our country can never repay the debt of gratitude for his ultimate sacrifice on behalf of us all.”
Gloucester County Veterans Affairs Director Duane Sarmiento said he received many calls Monday about Plutino.
“I speak on behalf of the 22,000 veterans in Gloucester County and our hearts go out to the family,” said Sarmiento. “No one but the mothers and fathers who have lost children in the service can understand the great level of grief that comes with it, but on behalf of all veterans we will stand behind his family and we are so proud of his service. If we can do anything for the family, they shouldn’t hesitate to ask. I am notified whenever a soldier is killed in the state, but it really hits home when that person is from Gloucester County.”
Sarmiento said Plutino’s heroism is the type that should never be forgotten.
“We must ensure that the youth of tomorrow have an understanding of whom they should honor and why,” said Sarmiento. “People like Alessandro should be honored 20 years from now, not baseball players or celebrities. These are the true heroes.”
Hammond echoed the importance of that recognition.
“It’s important that people know that these young men and women chose to do this, their belief in this country is way up there,” said Hammond. “I’ve heard today that it is not what the SEALs would’ve wanted to come home now, and it wasn’t what Sandrino wanted to do either. He believed in the mission and that they had to nip it in the bud before it came to our shores. A lot of people don’t even fly their flags anymore, which is a shame. People should go to bed thanking those people serving in the military and their families.”
From Barbara S. Rothschild - Courier-Post Staff
PITMAN — Sgt. Alessandro “Sandrino” Plutino, 28, was killed Monday by enemy gunfire in Afghanistan. The Army Ranger, a Pitman native, was due to end his sixth tour of duty in the Middle East later this month.
“He wanted to be a soldier forever,” said his mother, Dianne Hammond, at the family home Monday night.
“He believed that was his calling. I don’t think America knows how special these young men are.”
Plutino, a Rifle Team Leader in B Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was on his last special mission before coming home again — for good this time, his family and fiancée hoped.
He had served three tours in Iraq after graduating from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and was on his third tour of Afghanistan. Hammond said the family last talked to him Sunday, when he called to reassure them he wasn’t involved in the helicopter crash that killed 30 U.S. troops on Saturday.
“He was set to get out last March, but he went back for a special mission,” said his older sister, Brenna.
“This was something he wanted to do. He was a true American hero.”
She said her brother wanted to join the military in high school and again during college, but her family talked him out of it then.
The 2001 Pitman High School graduate — who attended Elwood Kindle School and Pitman Middle School — began college at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. He wrestled at Wilkes University, graduating in 2005 with a criminology degree.
“He was planning to go into law enforcement — maybe the FBI, the ATF, or a state trooper,” his mother said.
Plutino was also planning to get married to Natalie Layton of Glassboro, his sweetheart for the last 10 years. “He proposed on Jan. 1, and the wedding was going to be next August,” Brenna said.
Pitman Mayor Michael Batten, who coached Plutino in wrestling while he was in elementary school, remembered him as “a tough kid, but nice.
“It’s a real sad time for the family and the community,” said the mayor, who spoke about Plutino at Monday night’s council meeeting. A moment of silence was observed in his memory and Batten said the borough flags will fly at half-staff. He encouraged residents to fly the flag in Plutino’s honor.
Plutino is the second member of the armed forces from Pitman to be killed in the war on terror. Marine Cpl. Sean Kelly was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq in January 2005.
Plutino is also survived by his father, Sandro, and a grandmother, Carmelina of Marina di Massa, Italy, as well as other family and friends. His grandmother is visiting for the summer and was looking forward to seeing her grandson, Dianne Hammond said.
From Stephen Blackwell
I have pleasant and very fond memories of CSM Caro. He is a Ranger’s ranger. CSM was always attentive to what you had to say. After a company run, I saw him attending to his leg. I approach him and observed a wound on his shin that was draining and he was cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide. As we conversed and I inquired, CSM said it was a wound suffered from an AK-47 in Vietnam. If I recall, at this time it had to be late 1975 or early 1976. Point being, this soldier had been treating a fragile skin graft for many years struggling with a stubborn healing problem and fending off looming threat of infection. No doubt, he would always occasionally, need to attend to this personal care after most runs or any other strenuous exercises. No sick call, no medic, only disregard for himself and total care for his Ranger’s. In a similar way, memories of the Reforger Exercise in Germany, my weapons platoon was assigned to HHC company with CSM Caro. He organized use into a ‘Ready Reaction Force”. Those memories of going out at a moments notice and capturing the aggressor forces, driving up and down the German streets, eating together, joking together are all great times. There are many other fond thoughts of CSM Caro. I can honestly say he was very proud of being a member of the 1st Battalion and leading a fine bunch of ranger men. CSM Caro was truly an asset to the 1st Ranger Battalion, the U.S. ARMY, and a Ranger’s ranger! I know God has him on security duty in Heaven above. Hooooah! RLTW
Stephen Blackwell – Co. C, 1/75 Rangers (Orig. 74)
Join us in welcoming WCC’s Sandrino
Named in honor of United States Army Sergeant Alessandro “Sandrino”
Sergeant Alessandro Plutino’s dream of joining the Army can be traced back to a photo of him at age four dressed in camouflage and holding a wooden gun. Though he expressed a desire to serve when he turned 18 and then again after the events of September 11th, he was encouraged by his family to complete his college education. In May 2005, SGT Plutino earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology and enlisted in the Army shortly thereafter.
SGT Plutino began his military career on August 2, 2006 in infantry with a Ranger qualifier. He completed Basic, Advanced Individual Training, and Airborne, before entering the Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP). SGT Plutino graduated RIP and was assigned to the 1st Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. On April 8, 2007, SGT Plutino deployed for his first of three tours to Iraq.
By 2011, in addition to his three deployments to Iraq, SGT Plutino deployed twice to Afghanistan. SGT Plutino was scheduled to separate from the Army in March of 2011, but instead left on a special mission to Afghanistan on March 7, 2011. SGT Plutino was in his final weeks of his sixth tour of duty as a United States Army Ranger when on August 8, 2011, he was killed by enemy gunfire while leading his fellow Rangers in an assault. SGT Plutino was 28 years old.
The death of SGT Plutino was a tremendous loss to his fellow Rangers, but the impact of his sacrifice would be everlasting. Fellow platoon members recalled his leadership in his final moments and how his actions saved the lives of the brothers he so loved. “He placed himself in the position of greatest danger to identify and destroy the enemy and, in doing so, undoubtedly saved the lives of his team members and the rest of the platoon,” recalled Greg Holownia, SGT Plutino’s former platoon leader.
SGT Plutino’s awards and decorations include the Expert Marksman Badge, three Army Achievement Medals, three Army Merit Medals, the Iraq Campaign Medal with 2 Stars, the Afghan Campaign Medal with 2 Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Ribbon, the Ranger Tab, two Bronze Star Medals one with the V citation (for Valor), and the Purple Heart.
“You always knew what you got with Sandrino,” said a friend and fellow Ranger Grant McGarry. “He was always true to who he was. A friend you could count on…He loved being a Ranger. He was a great man.”
It is with great pride that we name WCC’s Sandrino in honor of United States Army Sergeant Alessandro “Sandrino” Plutino.