'Renegade' engineer company closes combat deployment with hundreds of awards to its Soldiers
August 28, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Soldiers of the 509th Clearance Company conducted a post-deployment award ceremony Aug. 9 at Specker Chapel to recognize individual "Renegades" for their extraordinary performance while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"The Soldiers in our company have earned this recognition by gladly grinding through the most dangerous mission in Afghanistan," said 1st Lt. Michael Poole, the company executive officer. "The fact that there are a lot less bad guys and [improvised explosive devices] on the roads of Afghanistan serves as proof of our Soldiers' training and effectiveness."
When the company redeployed from their yearlong combat tour in June, Soldiers of the unit had received a total of two Purple Hearts, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medals, 14 Bronze Stars and 133 Army Commendation medals.
"It was an honor to be recognized for the long hours, lost sleep and dedication to accomplishment of our mission even after our convoy was struck by an IED," said Spc. Taylor Merrit, a construction equipment repairer assigned to 509th Clearance Company.
Merrit is one of more than 100 Soldiers in his unit that were directly attacked by insurgent forces.
His vehicle was struck by an IED on two separate occasions along the same route which led to the U.S. Forces Afghanistan deputy commanding general's decision to award Merrit with not one, but two Purple Heart medals.
The commander of 4th MEB pinned seven Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars and one Army Commendation medal with a Valor device during the ceremony.
"These Soldiers are real heroes," said Col. James Reckard, III., 4th MEB commander. "They aren't like the athletes that are earning Olympic gold medals right now in London; these Soldiers did what they did without expecting anything in return."
The "Renegade" company is currently reintegrating with fellow Soldiers and family members as they begin training for their next mission which is not yet determined.
The company is slated to deploy to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. next year.