Thuma, David K., MSG

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Last Rank
Master Sergeant
Last Service Branch
Special Forces (1987-Present)
Last Primary MOS
18Z5-Special Forces Senior Sergeant
Last MOS Group
Special Forces
Primary Unit
1998-1998, 18Z5, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group
Service Years
1980 - 1998
Special Forces (1987-Present) Special Forces
Master Sergeant
Six Service Stripes
Two Overseas Service Bars

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This Military Service Page was created/owned by MAJ Mark E Cooper to remember Thuma, David K. (Dave), MSG.

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David K. Thuma Biography

Dave Thuma was born April 23, 1962, in Troy, Ohio. He graduated from Tecumsek High School and began his career in the United States Army on May 30, 1980. Following completion of Basic Infantry Training and Airborne School he was assigned to the Company A, 2nd Battalion, 325th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division from October 1980 through October 1984. He served as a 4.2” mortar gunner and infantry squad leader and earned the Bronze Star Medal for his actions during Operation Urgent Fury in Granada.

In 1984, Master Sergeant Thuma graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course as a Heavy Weapons Sergeant and was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) with further assignment to Special Forces Operational Detachment A 563. He also served as the Weapons Sergeant and Assistant Operations Sergeant with ODA 565 and participated in Operation Safe Passage in Pakistan (where he met his wife Josee). Operation Safe Passage provided valuable assistance to the Afghan populace by teaching them how to recognize and remove the 15 million landmines left behind by the Soviet Union during the war. Led by US Army Special Forces, an international group of volunteers taught the fundamentals of de-mining operations to soldiers and at the same time instructing civilians how to recognize and react to minefields and record and report the mines to the authorities. In addition to the training given by the Special Forces, Master Sergeant Thuma and his teammates, also gave a pint of blood each month to the International Red Cross war-wounded hospital. Master Sergeant also participated in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, his second combat tour. After returning from Desert Storm, Master Sergeant Thuma was assigned as the NCO In Charge of the new 5th SFG(A) SCUBA locker facility. Operating on a very limited budget and without an officer, Master Sergeant Thuma personally sought additional resources from other units on post and organized the entire facility by consolidating the Group’s multi-million dollar amphibious inventory after the wartime deployment. His standard operating procedures established the facility as the model for all Special Forces units. Upon completion of his tour of duty in the 5th SFG(A), he volunteered and was assigned to the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center’s Noncommissioned Officer Academy which was recently dedicated the Master Sergeant David K. Thuma Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

Before he could complete his tour of duty at the NCO Academy, Master Sergeant Thuma was hand-picked for assignment as the Operations Sergeant of a Special Forces SCUBA Detachment (ODA 335), in the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) and was an instrumental part in the successful restoration of a democratic government in Haiti during Operation Restore Democracy and the follow-on Operation Uphold Democracy. In January 1995, his detachment was given the mission of providing security of the southern Haitian city of Camp Perrin. Under Master Sergeant Thuma’s leadership the detachment conducted numerous projects in the city, including establishment of a Community Surveillance Program based on the America’s Community Watch Program. It allowed the citizens of Camp Perrin to patrol their neighborhoods, reducing crime and building much needed pride in their communities after years of abuse and neglect. Master Sergeant Thuma also established a weekly radio broadcast where he spoke with the city’s Mayor and community leaders about problems facing the city, solutions for these problems, and the accomplishments from the past week made through the joint efforts of the detachment and the Camp Perrin citizens.

Because of the outstanding performance of his detachment and the success of the operations in Camp Perrin, the city was selected as the model city to present to Richard A. Clark, Special Assistant to the President, who was sent to assess the situation in Haiti by the President. After returning to the United States, Master Sergeant Thuma served as the acting Detachment Commander for six months and the detachment was redeployed to Haiti to provide security for the Joint Special Operations Task Force Headquarters. Master Sergeant Thuma was chosen to brief the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the Army, and was praised by the President for his detailed explanation of the role of Special Forces in Haiti.

The detachment returned to the United States for training in preparation of a Joint Combined Training Exercise in Benin, Africa. The detachment supervised and provided instructor training in light infantry skills and waterborne infiltration techniques for the Benin Army and Navy.

After this successful mission, the detachment returned home and began training for a Rapid Support Unit rotation with Joint Task Force Six, where they provided border surveillance for the U.S. Border Patrol in the southwest border region of the United States. They were responsible for alerting the Border Patrol of illegal drug smuggling, which resulted in a 100-pound seizure by Border Patrol agents.

After returning to Fort Bragg, Master Sergeant Thuma was selected over 90 other Master Sergeants in the 3rd SFG(A) by the Group Command Sergeant Major to become the Headquarters Company First Sergeant. During his tenure as the First Sergeant, David Thuma set a standard of excellence with his dynamic leadership, physical fitness program, and his innovative methods of solving problems. His team building exercises contributed greatly to the staff’s overall performance and included an annual “Mud Run” which required the entire staff to complete a four-mile run/crawl through every mud hole along the trail. This single event, established his reputation for “training hard, to be hard” and accomplished more to develop a cohesive and efficient team than any other exercise conducted by the staff. His outstanding performance led to an additional one-year extension of his tour as First Sergeant.

After a highly successful tour as the First Sergeant, Master Sergeant Thuma was again selected to lead a Special Forces SCUBA Detachment (ODA 385), and during another training mission, this time attached to the 5th Special Forces Group in Kenya, Africa. The 5th SFG(A) Commander and the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya credited him for establishing the working relationship required to make the mission a success. On June 18, 1998, Master Sergeant Thuma, whose physical prowess was legendary, died unexpectedly from a massive heart attack during the detachments morning physical fitness training.

Master Sergeant Thuma’s awards and decorations clearly demonstrate his unlived potential. They are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (4th Award), Army Commendation Medal (8th Award), Army Achievement Medal (6th Award), Good Conduct Medal (6th Award), National Defense Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (2nd Award), Southwest Asia Service Medal (2 bronze service stars), Armed Forces Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal (2nd Award), Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (numeral 4), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, United Nations Medal (Haiti), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait), Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Bade, Combat Diver Badge, Driver Badge, Special Forces Tab, Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, Valorous and Army Superior Unit Awards, and the Canadian, Sudanese, Peruvian, German, and Kenyan Parachutist Badges.

In 1995, Master Sergeant Thuma was selected as the Outstanding Member of the United States Special Operations Command, which oversees all Special Operations Forces for the United States Army (Special Forces, Rangers, Aviation), United States Air Force Special Operations Wing, and the United States Navy SEALS. His selection earned him the coveted Veterans of the Office of Strategic Services Award for Excellence. At the time of his death, Master Sergeant Thuma was working on his Bachelor’s Degree. He is survived by his wife, Josee, and son, Bradley, now a soldier who has served as an infantryman with tours in Iraq.

David K. Thuma was an extraordinary man, among extraordinary men.

Other Comments:

MSG Thuma is survived by his wife, Josee Bourget-Thuma and son Bradley Q. Thuma of Fayetteville; his mother, Mrs. Eileen A. Thuma, of New Carlisle, Ohio; his brother Wayne Thuma of New Carlisle, Ohio, and his sisters Becky Thuma-Mason of Tarpon Springs and Sonnie Fissel of Springfield, Ohio.


Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada)
From Month/Year
October / 1983
To Month/Year
November / 1983

Grenada, one of the smallest independent nations in the Western Hemisphere and one of the southernmost Caribbean islands in the Windward chain, has an area of only 133 square miles. The population is 110,000. But size is not necessarily the determining factor when governments consider strategic military locations. The Cuban government knew the value of Grenada's location when it decided to utilize the former British colony as a holding place for arms and military equipment, complete with a major airport. Eastern Caribbean nations fully understood the implication of the communist threat and called upon the United States for help. The response was Urgent Fury, a multinational, multiservice effort.

On March 13, 1979, the New Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education, and Liberation (New Jewel) movement ousted Sir Eric Gairy, Grenada's first prime minister, in a nearly bloodless coup and established a people's revolutionary government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop, who became prime minister. His Marxist-Leninist Government established close ties with Cuba, the Soviet Union, and other communist-bloc countries. In October 1983, a power struggle within the government resulted in the arrest and subsequent murder of Bishop and several members of his cabinet by elements of the people's revolutionary army.

Following a breakdown in civil order, U.S. forces, in conjunction with contingents of the security forces of several neighboring Caribbean states, invaded the independent state of Grenada on October 25 in response to an appeal from the governor general and to a request for assistance from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. The mission was to oust the People's Revolutionary Government, to protect U.S. citizens and restore the lawful government.

Not until about 40 hours before H-hour were commanding officers of the US Navy ships told what the mission in Grenada would be--to evacuate U.S. citizens, neutralize any resistance, stabilize the situation and maintain the peace. That didn't leave much time to get the ships ready. On board USS Guam (LPH-9), flag ship of Amphibious Squadron Four, Aviation Ordnanceman Third Class George Boucher Jr. staged ammunition for vertical replenishment to the other four ships of the Marine amphibious group--USS Barnstable County (LST-1197), USS Manitowoc (LST-1180), USS Fort Snelling (LSD-30) and USS Trenton (LPD-14). He wondered why Marine CH-46 pilots were flying in unfavorable winds on that dark night of Oct. 24; the helicopters had trouble lifting the pallets as the ships rushed through the water.

Stateside, Army Rangers and 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers assembled and prepared for departure to Grenada. Out of sight in the darkness, the USS Independence (CV-62) task group, including USS Richmond K. Turner (CO-20), USS Coontz (DDG-40), USS Caron (DD-970), USS Moosbrugger (DD-980), USS Clifton Sprague (FFG-16) and USS Suribachi (AE-21), steamed into position off the coast of Grenada.

To secure objectives in Grenada and to facilitate operations, the island was operationally split in half. The Marines covered the northern half of the island while Army rangers covered the south. The invasion in the south focused on an unfinished runway at Point Salines.

The 22d Marine Amphibious Unit was diverted to Grenada while en route to Lebanon. The Marine amphibious unit conducted landings as part of Operation Urgent Fury at Grenada on 25 October and at Carriacou on 1 November.

The first heliborne landing force launched before dawn from Guam's flight deck. When the helicopters touched down at Pearls Airport at 5 a.m. on 25 Oct., the PRA--People's Revolutionary Army--greeted the Marines with bursts from small arms and machine guns. In pairs, the Marines scrambled out of the helos and immediately dug in, waiting for the choppers to leave. Three Soviet-made 12.7mm guns on a nearby hill fired at helicopters bringing in the second assault--Marines of Fox Company--to the town of Grenville, just south of Pearls, at 6 a.m. Sea- Cobra [two-bladed, single turbine engine] attack helicopters were called in to silence the guns and Fox Company landed amid light mortar fire. Echo and Fox companies moved slowly and cautiously after their landings; after a couple of hours, most of the resistance at Pearls and Grenville was beaten down.

Preceding the operations in the north and south, Navy seal teams were airdropped near St. Georges to secure the safety of the Grenadian Governor General who was being held under house arrest by opposing forces in the governor's mansion and to capture the government radio station at St. Georges. A Navy SEAL team which was to have provided intelligence on the airfield at Salines was unable to get ashore.

At 0534 the first Rangers began dropping at Salines, and less than two hours elapsed from the first drop until the last unit was on the ground, shortly after seven in the morning. Army Rangers, arriving in four-engine turboprop C-130 Hercules aircraft, met much stiffer resistance than the Marines encountered at Pearls. To avoid the anti-aircraft fire, the Rangers jumped from a very low altitude--500 feet. Machine-gun fire blasted at aircraft and Rangers on the ground. But US Air Force four-engine turboprop AC-130 Spectre gunships silenced the hostile fire with devastatingly accurate blasts.

After the rangers had secured the runway, 800 more troops would land, freeing the rangers to press northward where they were to secure the safety of American medical students and bring under control the capital of St. Georges. At the end of the first day in Grenada, the Rangers had secured the airfield and True Blue Campus at a cost of five dead and six wounded. Once the Rangers had secured the runway, elements of the 82nd Airborne Division landed, and late in the evening of the 26th the 82d Division's 3d Brigade began to deploy across the island. In the north, 400 Marines would land and rescue the small airport at Pearls.

Even before securing Point Salines airfield on the first day, Rangers had moved to evacuate American students at the True Blue campus of St. George's Medical Center. The campus, located at one end of the 10,000-foot runway the Cubans had been building, was reached easily and the students were rescued. A second campus at Grand Anse was farther away, and retreating Cubans and PRA units blocked the Rangers from the students. By afternoon the Point Salines air field was secured from all but sporadic mortar and small arms fire, and Rangers were moving against PRA positions near St. George's, the capital. Other Rangers removed obstacles on the Point Salines runway, and elements of the 82nd Airborne Division flew in to add more people and heavier weapons to the assault.

During the evening, Marines of Golf Company, from the tank landing ships Manitowoc and Barnstable County, landed at Grand Mal beach, just north of St. George's, with 13 amphibious vehicles and five tanks. Throughout the first night, a constant stream of logistics aircraft landed and took off from the partially completed runway at Point Salines. Gunfire roared from ships and aircraft. At first light on the second day, Marine armor supporting the Rangers and 82nd Airborne began final assaults on Cuban and PRA positions around St. George's. With close air support from Navy attack aircraft from Independence, Golf Company captured the governor's residence at 7:12 a.m., freeing several civilians and Sir Paul Scoon, governor-general of Grenada and representative of Queen Elizabeth.

On the morning of the third day of operations, Rangers and Marines, with close air support from the carrier Independence, attacked heavily fortified positions at Fort Adolphus, Fort Matthew and Richmond Hill prison above St. George's. U.S. aircraft flying in the vicinity during the first two days had met a torrent of anti-aircraft fire; three helicopters had been shot down. One of the heavily defended positions in the area later turned out to be a hospital.

The 82nd Airborne, with close air and naval gunfire support, moved against the Calivigny military barracks east of Point Salines. The assault completed the last major objective for the peacekeeping forces. After wards, the Rangers were airlifted out of Grenada.

The next day--Oct. 28--the 82nd Airborne and Marines linked forces at Ross Beach. They secured St. George's and began mopping up the last few pockets of resistance scattered around the island.

From 22 October-4 November 1983, Eighth Air Force sent its KC-135 and KC-10 tankers to provide refueling support for the US assault on Grenada. Eighth Air Force tankers, operating from several stateside locations, refueled various fighters, reconnaissance planes, and other aircraft for URGENT FURY. They completing all assigned missions without degrading their ability to perform their strategic mission. General Charles A. Gabriel, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, recognized all participating units for their efforts.

By Nov. 2, all military objectives had been secured. Next day, hostilities were declared to be at an end. Grenadians went about putting their country back in order--schools and businesses reopened for the first time in two weeks or more.

By 3 November, the Marine amphibious unit was reembarked aboard its amphibious shipping and had resumed its passage to Lebanon.

Urgent Fury was a success, but not without the inevitable tragedies of battle. People did get hurt and die. At the end of the operation, 18 American men had died and 116 were wound ed. Guam had treated 77 wounded, and many others had been sent to Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico.

In total, an invasion force of 1,900 U.S. troops, reaching a high of about 5,000 in five days, and 300 troops from the assisting neighboring islands encountered about 1,200 Grenadians, 780 Cubans, 49 Soviets, 24 North Koreans, 16 East Germans, 14 Bulgarians, and 3 or 4 Libyans. Within three days all main objectives were accomplished. Five hundred ninety-nine (599) Americans and 80 foreign nationals were evacuated, and U.S. forces were successful in the eventual reestablishment of a representative form of government in Grenada.

That is not to say, however, that the invasion went without challenge. The first challenge was the lack of good intelligence data. For example, at Point Salines operations bogged down because resistance was much greater than expected. In attempting to rescue the Governor General, American forces were stymied by larger Cuban and Grenadian forces than anticipated. By listening to Cuban radio broadcasts, it seemed that the resistance was being directed from a place called Fort Frederick. As it turned out, but not previously known, Fort Frederick was the nerve center for the Cuban and Grenadian forces and once it was destroyed resistance simply melted away.

The invasion force lacked precise data on the location of the American medical students they were to rescue. One account noted that attack planners did not realize that the American medical students were spread out over three locations.

The final challenge to invading forces was the lack of a fully integrated, interoperable communications system. Unlike the fighting elements which were organized to conduct operations independent of one another, communications systems were not allowed such freedom. Communications was to have been the glue that would tie together the operation of the four independent United States military service elements. Unfortunately, communications support failed in meeting certain aspects of that mission. It cannot be said that communications capability itself was abundant. Several participants cite shortages of communications.

Shortages were not the only communications problems found during the invasion of Grenada; interoperability was another. For example, uncoordinated use of radio frequencies prevented radio communications between Marines in the north and Army Rangers in the south. As such, interservice communication was prevented, except through offshore relay stations, and kept Marine commanders unaware for too long that Rangers were pinned down without adequate armor. In a second incident, it was reported that one member of the invasion force placed a long distance, commercial telephone call to Fort Bragg, N.C. to obtain C-130 gunship support for his unit which was under fire. His message was relayed via satellite and the gunship responded.

Several factors have been cited as the cause of the communications problems which were confronted in Grenada. Among them were insufficient planning for the operation, lack of training, inadequate procedures, maldeployment of communications security keying material for the different radio networks, and lack of preparation through exercise realism.

One of the more noted intelligence shortcomings of the operation was the lack of up to date topographical information (maps) on Grenada. When adequate maps were found, they apparently had to be flown to the Grenada task force rather than being sent by electrical transmission.

No journalists were on the island of Grenada to provide live reporting on the invasion, nor had any been taken along with the invading force. Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, in charge of the operation, had originally planned to exclude the media completely from the operation until he was convinced that they could do no harm. As word of the imminent invasion spread, hundreds of journalists moved into the area but were blocked from proceeding to Grenada. Indeed, there were no first-hand reports from Grenada until 2½ days after the operation began. The media, citing the American people's right to know, and frustrated at their inability to provide the current reporting that they would have liked, protested loudly about the military's gross oversight in failure to permit journalists to accompany the operation.
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
From Month/Year
October / 1983
To Month/Year
November / 1983
Last Updated:
Mar 16, 2020
Personal Memories
Units Participated in Operation

21st Military Police Company

65th Military Police Company

118th Military Police Company

503rd Military Police Battalion (Airborne)

My Photos From This Battle or Operation
No Available Photos

  524 Also There at This Battle:
  • Abbott, David, SFC, (1983-2003)
  • Abney, Mark, SP 4, (1982-1985)
  • Abrahamson, David, COL, (1972-2002)
  • Adams, Frederick, SP 4, (1983-1985)
  • Allison, Craig, SGT, (1981-1984)
  • Anders, Walter, SGT, (1980-1992)
  • Anderson, Jeffrey, 1SG, (1968-2010)
  • Anderson, Stephen L, SP 4, (1981-1985)
  • Ashley, Vincent, MAJ, (1977-1994)
  • Atkins, Thomas, SGT, (1980-1986)
  • Autrey, Daniel, CW4, (1982-2004)
  • Aviles, Joaquin, SSG, (1982-2003)
  • Aviles, Joaquin, SSG, (1982-2003)
  • Bachmann, Ken, MSG, (1976-1997)
  • Baker, Almarita, SGT, (1980-2005)
  • Baker, Jeffrey, SGM, (1981-2007)
  • Ball, Kenneth, SFC, (1981-1998)
  • Banash, Paul Gabriel, SGT, (1981-1987)
  • Bassett, William, SSG, (1974-1985)
  • Bates, R. Craig, CPT, (1982-1988)
  • Baxter, Brian, SPC, (1979-1989)
  • Bealke, Walter, SP 5, (1979-1985)
  • Bermingham, Sean, MAJ, (1973-1997)
  • Betancourt, Iram, MSG, (1977-2007)
  • Bierman, Gary, MAJ, (1972-1992)
  • Blackwell, Bobby, SSG, (1982-1991)
  • Blanchard, Hugh, MAJ, (1972-1995)
  • Blew, Brian, MAJ, (1982-2005)
  • Blue, Dave, SGM, (1979-2004)
  • Boisa, David, SP 4, (1983-1986)
  • Boone, James, SGT, (1976-1984)
  • Boord, John, SGT, (1982-1985)
  • Boswell, Carl, SSG, (1980-2000)
  • Breasseale, Scott, CSM, (1980-2004)
  • Briere, Donald, LTC, (1963-1993)
  • Brinkman, Dave, SGM, (1980-2005)
  • Brittain, Daniel, SGT, (1981-1989)
  • Brogdon, James, CW3, (1966-1988)
  • Brooks, Randy, SGT, (1982-1988)
  • Brown, Marvin, SPC, (1980-1987)
  • Bual, Ramon, 1SG, (1981-2006)
  • Bunnell, Bill, 1SG, (1981-2000)
  • Burkhardt, Michael, SGM, (1976-2002)
  • Burns, Jon, CPL, (1981-1983)
  • Burns, Rory, MSG, (1983-2006)
  • Butler, William, CW5, (1980-Present)
  • Camacho, Francisco, CW2, (1975-1988)
  • Campbell, Roger, SGT, (1982-1985)
  • CANADA, STEVEN, SFC, (1976-1998)
  • Canals, Jay, SGT, (1982-1991)
  • Cannon, Allen, SSG, (1983-2008)
  • Carlson, Charles, SGT, (1982-1986)
  • Carstensen, Laine, SSG, (1976-1987)
  • Caviness, Douglas, MSG, (1983-2008)
  • Chatham, J Beaumont, MAJ, (1982-1992)
  • Chesser, Brian, SFC, (1980-2000)
  • Clapp, Richard, SGT, (1980-1986)
  • Clavell, Jose J., CPT, (1981-1992)
  • Clifford, Dave, CPL, (1982-1988)
  • Collier Jr., Joseph, SGM, (1982-2009)
  • Colon-Rivera, Raul, 1SG, (1978-1998)
  • Conover, John, SGM, (1982-2009)
  • Coop, Timothy, CSM, (1982-2011)
  • Corder, James, SFC, (1980-1997)
  • Cordero-Torres, John, SFC, (1980-2004)
  • Cornwall, Daniel, SSG, (1976-1990)
  • Cox, William, SFC, (1981-Present)
  • Crain, William, CSM, (1976-1998)
  • Cramer vonClausbruch, Andreas, SSG, (1983-2016)
  • Crosby, Vincent, SGM, (1982-2002)
  • Crouch, Shayne, 1SG, (1981-2002)
  • Cummings, Dave, 1SG, (1968-1991)
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