D Troop Geronimos win Draper Award
April 14, 2009
- Award shows intestinal fortitude of individual Soldiers
Most Army units have a tough job these days, and D Troop, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment is no exception.
The troop is the only cavalry troop in the infantry battalion (which makes for some rivalry), and besides training for its cavalry tasks, it also serves as the opposing force at the Joint Readiness Training Center.
The multi-faceted nature of D Troop's role was recognized by the Office of the Chief of Armor at Fort Knox, Ky., Feb. 9. The troop received the Draper Armor Leadership Award for its achievements in 2008. The award is given annually to promote, sustain and recognize excellence in leadership in armor and cavalry units.
Lt. Col. Wickliffe Draper implemented the award in 1924 as a means to competitively test the leadership of small cavalry units. Criteria for the award include the unit's Army physical fitness test score average, weapons qualification scores, maintenance readiness rate, gunnery scores, retention rate, safety incidents and notable events (such as community service and deployments).
"(The Draper award) is the culmination of everything we've done. Our Soldiers are trying to stay proficient in their military occupational specialty, as well as being world-class OPFOR," said Capt. Alex Chavez, commander, D Troop. Chavez took command of D Troop at the same time Lt. Col. Darron Wright took command of 1st Bn (Abn), 509th Inf Reg. Wright implemented the battalion best squad competition, which D Troop won two of the three times it has been held.
"That is a manifestation of (D Troop's) leadership, but also the intestinal fortitude of each individual Soldier," Chavez said. "(The battalion leadership) set the stage for our success. "We just went out and executed."
1st Sgt. Kevin Mock, first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Operations Group, who served as the D Troop first sergeant when the troop was considered for the Draper award, agreed with Chavez.
"The award says something for the 509th. The battalion leadership guided and supported D Troop," he said.
"The Fort Polk community should share in this too, because what we do as OPFOR is supported by the entire installation."
Mock explained that the unit's diverse mission prepared it for the award.
"Our OPFOR surrogate vehicles, which are modified HMMWVs, are the only vehicles assigned to the unit," he said.
"For us to train on cavalry missions we have to coordinate for resources from other units on post. D Troop Soldiers have to change gears quickly and operate equipment that isn't their own."
"We had a lot of things to overcome," said 1st Lt. Michael Gain, platoon leader, 3rd Platoon.
"We're short manpower and equipment. Despite those shortfalls, we were able to submit a packet that was judged worthy of the award. I think it's amazing."
"This unit is unique," said Sgt. 1st Class Todd Robertson, D Troop's current first sergeant.
Robertson served as platoon sergeant when the troop was considered for the Draper award.
"We're maintaining our standards for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as our OPFOR standards.
"The Soldiers here know their enemy better than just about anyone."
Spc. Derick Underwood, 4th Platoon, explained D Troop's secret for success. "We just do our job and get the mission accomplished," he said.
"How did we get the award' We're the best at what we do. Our job is difficult because we have to learn new things for our regular Army job, and we also have to learn new tactics that the insurgents are using, but it also makes us more versatile."
"We did everything to the fullest of everyone's ability. The end result was the Draper award," said Staff Sgt. Richard Sciascia, platoon sergeant, Headquarters Platoon.
"Never once did these guys aim for the award. We aim to be the best at what we do. Winning the Draper award was a byproduct."
Sciascia explained that D Troop's most important asset is its Soldiers.
"The Draper award focuses on leadership, but in order to lead you have to have people to lead. Without the Soldiers we have, the award would have been impossible.