Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Thomas D Rabjohn

Litchfield Park, Arizona

October 3, 2009

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
39 Army SSG

363rd Explosive Ordnance Detachment

Coolidge, Arizona

 Killed in Wardak province, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated during an attempt to disarm it.

Deployment day

From Phoenix.gov :

Remembering Phoenix Police Officer Thomas Rabjohn

Officer Thomas RabjohnThomas Rabjohn’s father knew the minute the military vehicle pulled up to his home. Rabjohn’s friend since childhood, Phoenix police Sergeant Alex Ortiz related the senior Rabjohn’s thoughts during a media interview this week when asked how he heard the news of his friend’s death in Afghanistan. Rabjohn’s father said, “Leave, don’t come and talk to me. Just leave, because I don’t want to hear those words.”

Phoenix police Officer Thomas Rabjohn #7803 was known to his Central City Precinct colleagues as quiet and even-tempered and calm. At 39, he was one of the older officers on his squad and enjoyed mentoring younger officers. Sergeant Alex Ortiz spoke warmly about the guy he considered family, “Tom was like a father figure to a lot of officers; he may not have had a lot of years on the department, but he came with life experience that a lot of younger officers don’t have.” Ortiz continued, “He would always tell kids who were thinking about being police officers to ‘keep their butts out of trouble!’” 

Thomas Rabjohn knew he wanted to serve his country and, after his graduation from Tolleson High School, he joined the Marines. After serving his country, he returned to the valley and soon after, joined the Phoenix Police Department. Despite his age and his job in law enforcement, the man who married his high school sweetheart and always seemed driven to protect others, joined the Coolidge-based Army National Guard and eventually was deployed. 

On Saturday, October 3, 2009, while serving as a team leader with the 363rd Explosives Ordinance Detection Company assigned with the 82nd Airborne Division, 741st Battalion, Regional Command East, in the Wardak Province, Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Thomas Rabjohn died from wounds sustained during combat actions. 

A hero returns homeHis commanding officer, Command Sergeant Major Robert Parr called from Afghanistan to share that he knew Tom personally and had spent several hours talking with him the day before the tragic incident. He explained the events of October 3rd during the phone call that Tom’s unit was assigned to a forward operating base supporting a field artillery unit. They were located south of Kabul; his unit responded to assist the field artillery unit with trip wires that were arranged across a roadway. Attempts to use the EOD robot and a hook/pulley line were unsuccessful, so Tom donned the bomb suit and disabled the devices he and his team had located. He removed his suit to conduct a post blast assessment and located an additional explosive device. He was able to warn two of his team members who were able to create enough distance to survive the bomb blast that occurred seconds after Tom’s warning. Tom was killed immediately. The details of the incident are still being investigated, but Sgt. Major Parr indicated, “Tom Rabjohn is being called a hero for his efforts to save his co-workers.”

All who knew Tom Rabjohn agree he was a man who cared deeply for his family, his community, and his country and wanted nothing more than to protect them all. He returned home from Afghanistan with the eight soldiers that were killed in the Taliban attack on U.S. forces October 3, 2009. Officer Rabjohn is survived by his wife, Nikki and daughters Kylee (14), Koree (13), Kelsee (12); parents Thomas and Patty; his sisters June and Nancy; and, his brother, Brian. Funeral arrangements are pending.

From Arizona Central azcentral.com 10/06/09:

Phoenix police officer died disabling bomb, saved 2 soldiers

by Michael Ferraresi - Oct. 6, 2009 11:53 AM
The Arizona Republic

A Phoenix police officer serving in the Army National Guard died in Afghanistan moments after he disabled a bomb and warned two of his fellow Guard soldiers of another device the group had overlooked, authorities said Tuesday.

Thomas Rabjohn, a National Guard staff sergeant and explosives expert who joined Phoenix Police in 2002, is credited with saving the lives of the other soldiers, according to his commanding officer.

The explosion happened as the Coolidge-based 363rd Explosives Ordinance Detection Company disabled one or more improvised explosive devices set with trip-wires along a roadway in an area in the Wardak province south of Kabul.

Rabjohn, a Tolleson High School graduate, Lichfield Park resident and father of three girls, had just removed his bomb suit to conduct a post-blast assessment when he discovered an additional explosive device.

Moments later, the man who aspired to join the Phoenix Police Bomb Squad was dead, Army Sgt. Maj. Robert Parr said in a statement released Tuesday.

"He was able to warn two of his team members about the device, causing them to create enough distance to survive the bomb blast that occurred seconds after Tom's warning," Parr wrote in his statement.

Rabjohn's funeral arrangements are pending. Earlier this week, his body was flown home with the bodies of several other American troops killed in weekend combat in Afghanistan. The weekend marked one of the bloodiest in Afghanistan since 2008, according to military reports.

Phoenix police said 111 employees have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since the war efforts in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

As many as 15 of those assignments were redeployments, said officer James Holmes, a Phoenix police spokesman.

Rabjohn most recently served as a Central City Precinct field training officer assigned to a beat area near 16th Street and McDowell Road.

Phoenix police Sgt. Alex Ortiz, a family friend who grew up with Rabjohn in the southwest Valley, said relatives were tailgating at Saturday's ASU football game when they heard of Rabjohn's death.

"It just didn't feel like reality," said Ortiz, who described Rabjohn as a proud father and former Marine who made it his daily obligation to protect his community, after serving four years in the military prior to joining the police department.

"He still felt that he had to protect our country, more so because of his daughters," he said.

Rabjohn is survived by his wife, Nikki; and daughters Kylee, 14, Koree, 13 and Kelsee, 12

From Arizona ABC 15 TV abc15.com 10/12/09:

Fallen soldier arrives in the Valley
Reported by: Steve Irvin
Email: sirvin@abc15.com
Last Update: 10/12/2009 9:22 pm

PHOENIX -- Members of the Arizona Army National Guard and Phoenix police department welcomed home one of their own Monday, even as they prepared to say goodbye.

The body of Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Thomas Rabjohn arrived at Luke Air Force Base just a few days after he was killed in combat in Afghanistan.

Rabjohn was 39-years old and leaves behind a wife and three young daughters. He was also a veteran officer with the Phoenix Police Department since 2002.

“Thomas was a wonderful father and husband," his family said in a statement released Sunday. "He died doing what he loved. He prided himself on his performance and knowledge of his job both in the military and on the police force. We loved him very much and will miss him even more."

A visitation for Rabjohn will be held Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Skyway Church, at 14900 W. Van Buren in Goodyear.

Funeral services will be held Friday at Christ's Church of the Valley at 11:00 a.m. at 7007 W. Happy Valley Rd in Peoria.

Rabjohn will be buried at the National Veteran's Cemetery in Phoenix.

A memorial fund for Rabjohn has been established at Wells Fargo Bank. 

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