By W. Wayne MarlowMarch 11, 2014
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. --- A First Army senior noncommissioned officer and recipient of two Purple Hearts was recently knighted into an elite military organization.
Sgt. 1st Class Scott D. Smith of San Antonio became a member of the Honorable Order of Saint George and received the Order's Silver Medallion in a ceremony Feb. 28 at the Rock Island Arsenal Clubhouse.
Induction into the Order recognizes a long and distinguished career by a member of the United States Armor Association. The association named its award in honor of Saint George, the patron saint of mounted warriors. The Order of Saint George Medallion is the top award given to members of the Army's mounted force by the United States Armor Association of the United States Army. About 10,000 medallions have been given since its inception in 1986.
Saint George, born in the Third Century, was a Roman Soldier who was the central figure in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon. In the 12th Century, Italian villagers reported that he appeared from a mist to slay the creature and save everyone. Saint George must have been looking out for Smith, who suffered multiple injuries fighting in Iraq.
The first time he was wounded, a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the tank he was commanding left him with glass shards in his face, eye and left arm. The second time, Smith suffered a shrapnel wound to his left wrist when the tank in which he was serving as loader came under attack. Worst of all, though, was an improvised explosive device attack on a third tank. Of the four-man crew, only Smith survived.
"I lost several friends in combat," Smith said. "They paid the ultimate price in defense of freedom for this country. I think about my guys every day."
In Smith's knighthood ceremony, First Army commanding general, Lt. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, draped the Honorable Order of Saint George Silver Medallion around Smith's neck and touched a sword to both shoulders.
It was Tucker who nominated Smith for the honor, after learning that Smith found 156 improvised explosive devices in Iraq, achieved 950 points out of a possible 1,000 on his tank qualification exam, achieved the highest possible score on the Army Physical Fitness Test, and received two Purple Hearts.
"Lt. Gen. Tucker found out about my past and made it happen," Smith said. "I was honored that a general would take the time to do that."
Smith's tank score was all the more impressive, since he was working with a new gunner.
"On tanks there are several qualification tables the crew must complete in order to be a qualified crew, with Tank Table VIII being the most crucial," Smith said. "As the gunner and tank commander work together, they develop their own rhythm and are able to shoot really well."
Tank tables become progressively more complex and challenging. They begin with focus on basic gunnery skills, then introduce offensive engagements and Nuclear Biological and Chemical conditions. Next, crews are trained on engaging stationary and moving targets.
This leads to crucial Table VIII, the individual crew qualification table that tests the skills learned in previous tables. It consists of five day and five night firing tasks.
And all this was being done with a new gunner. Achieving success as a new team required plenty of preparation. "Since my gunner was new and not only had never shot with me, he had never shot a tank's main gun, period, we spent countless hours shooting in simulators and going over the tables in one-on-one training," Smith said.
It is that teamwork, along with staying in shape, that is required for working in armor, according to Smith.
"You have got to stay fit, mentally and physically," he said. "Going to combat and losing a friend takes a lot out of the warfighter. And changing tracks on the entire company of tanks up to twice a month takes its toll."
As a tanker, Smith served as driver, loader, gunner, tank commander, platoon sergeant, operations NCO, battalion schools NCO, brigade transportation logistics NCO, and staff movements NCO.
His current duty position -- transportation management coordinator for the First Army commanding general and administrative assistant to the First Army command sergeant major -- has exposed him to a different side of the Army.
"It was not until having deployed in my current MOS of motor transport operator that I was able to see that there is a lot more in defending this country than fighting," Smith said. "It's the background, behind-the-scenes, work done by the support elements that are the backbone of the fight."
Despite his time in combat and his injuries, Smith liked being an Armor Soldier.
"The things I enjoyed the most," he said, "were the teamwork, the maneuvers, the deployments, and the overall feeling of having defended my country."