By Capt. Charlie Dietz, 214th Fires Brigade PAOJune 6, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. (June 6, 2013) -- May 30 brought the 30th day of deployment for the Steel Warriors of 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery.
Soldiers were excited to earn something that each veteran desires, their shoulder sleeve insignia-former wartime service patch.
The insignia is commonly called the combat patch; it is worn on the right sleeve of the uniform just below the American flag to signify the unit served under the United States. It is awarded to Soldiers who are deployed in combat zones for 30 days or more.
The combat patch has been a symbol of military service during combat operations since World War I, carried through World War II, and still continues to serve as an emblem of personal sacrifice.
The warriors received their patch for their deployment to the United Arab Emirates, where the battalion is providing security and assistance for their allies while delivering timely and accurate fires when needed.
Soldiers who are combat veterans are authorized to permanently wear the patch of the unit they served with on their right shoulder. Per Army Regulation 670-1, Soldiers are authorized to wear the combat patch of their higher headquarters. This is not dependent on whether or not the higher headquarters deployed, or to whom the Soldiers were attached throughout their deployment. All the Steel Warriors receiving their first combat patch will wear the 214th Fires Brigade patch.
"My patch is not just a deployment patch, but a testimony of sacrifice and loyalty to my unit and the Army," said Spc. Joshua Abell. "It also reflects the bond that I carry with my brothers and sisters in arms. It's not just because we wear the same insignia, but because we are all in this together."
More than one-third of the Army's total force has never deployed to a combat zone; all the more reason that receiving this patch is a special occasion to Soldiers. This is a special event for many veteran Soldiers who have multiple deployments, because they get to put the patch on other Soldiers who are receiving theirs for the first time.
"The patch ceremony felt like an accomplishment amongst many more to come, and it inspires pride within me to wear it," said Pvt. Thomas Harmon.
The insignia is something that Soldiers can wear on their uniform for the rest of their lives, often brought up as a conversation topic by others who recognize the patch when away from their duty station.
"There is a special bond that is shared within the ranks. The patch ceremony brought it to light, strengthening our bond to one another during our time here," said Abell.
Though each Soldier involved in the ceremony can wear the 214th Fires Brigade patch from now on, some may decide to wear the patch of a previous unit that they have deployed with.
"Many of these Soldiers out here who have deployed before prefer to wear their former combat patches due to catastrophic events that some of them have experienced with their war time missions," said 1st Lt. Anthony Paris. "They value the patch that they have received on this deployment, because we are all proud to be Steel Warriors, even if some choose to wear the patch of a former unit."
Some Soldiers with multiple deployments decided that they are going to wear the 214th patch from now on, including the battalion commander, Lt. Col. J.P. Maddaloni.
"Today, I will wear the 214th Fires Brigade patch and will continue to wear it for the remainder of my service in the Army," said Maddaloni. "I hope these Steel Warriors will wear the patch with pride and when someone asks them where they got the patch, they will proudly answer they received the patch in the United Arab Emirates, serving with the 1-14th Field Artillery Regiment, the finest group of Americans I have known."
For some, the ceremony brought smiles of happiness and pride. For others, it was a solemn moment of reflection. However, for everyone who was involved and those who attended, it was just another example of the solidarity that runs deep in Steel Warriors battalion
"I was honored to have First Sergeant [Kevin] Carter put my patch on my right shoulder while giving me words of encouragement for the future," said Harmon.
After months of training and field exercises at Fort Sill, the combat patch ceremony validates the Steel Warriors' readiness to accomplish the mission and demonstrates the Soldier's commitment to our nation.