ZURBATIYAH, Iraq (March 16, 2010) -- Throughout the history of the U.S. military, troops have been honored with awards and commendations for their service, especially for the times they have gone beyond what was required of them.

Tribes in Iraq also have a long tradition of honoring those they feel are deserving of recognition.

The "yashmagh," the traditional head covering of Arabic tribesmen, and the black wool "agal" headband are given to the members of a tribe as a symbol of trust and honor. The highly-inclusive distinction is usually kept within the tribe, and formal ceremonies to present the agal and yashmagh to "outsiders" are rare.

For Lt. Col. Mike Bush, a Security Transition Team Officer with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, receiving the traditional head covering was a tremendous privilege.

The shaykh of the Katawi Tribe placed the yashmagh on Bush in a formal ceremony March 2.

Though it is sometimes worn by those who have never even set foot in the Middle East as either a fashion or political statement, the actual presentation of the honor to Westerners by a tribe is rare.

From what he had been able to gather, the agal may not have been formally presented to a Westerner in several decades, Bush said.

"A lot of Americans have been given the agal and headdress, but this is the first time it's been officially given since [T.E.] Lawrence," he said.

Bush's interactions with the tribe in Wasit Province are mainly through the commander of the Department of Border Enforcement's 7th Brigade, 3rd Region, who meets with Bush three times a week.

The commander's area of operations includes the Zurbatiyah Point of Entry, a busy checkpoint on the border with Iran, and more than 42 other posts along the border.

Bush's advice to those who would follow in his steps is for them to learn about the culture and show respect to the people of Iraq.

"The Iraqi People, who have a really different culture, appreciate the fact that the United States has invested the time, effort and lives here in order to bring about security and allow this country to stand up," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16