By Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, MND-B PAOMarch 12, 2009
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - A former commanding general for the 1st Cavalry Division, Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli who now serves as the Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, once said that wearing the 1st Cavalry Division "First Team" patch "changes its wearers to some extent, making them walk a little prouder and talk a little louder because of the pride they feel for their unit."
With this description as an underlying theme, approximately 80 Soldiers from the Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cav. Div., Multi-National Division-Baghdad along with troops from an attached unit, the 211th Public Affairs Detachment, donned the division's combat patch on their right sleeve for the very first time during a patch ceremony here March 10.
DSTB Soldiers are serving a 12-month tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 09-10 and receiving the combat patch is always a major honor while serving in the combat zone, according to Lt. Col. Matthew Karres, commander, DSTB.
"It definitely means a lot and it's significant in the fact that they've definitely earned it," said Karres. "This signifies their sacrifices and to some extent their families' sacrifices as it's earned while they're away from their families."
Prior to the Soldiers receiving their patches, the First Team band played Garryowen, the official tune of the 1st Cav. as Soldiers attending the ceremony clapped along with the music.
Once the music faded, a history of the patch was read explaining its symbolism.
Designed by Col. and Mrs. Ben Dorsey when Col. Dorsey was the 7th Cavalry Regiment commander at Fort Bliss, Texas, the Army first approved the patch for shoulder sleeve wear in the early 1920s. Yellow in the patch represents the sunset with black representing iron and the cavalry's transition from horses to heavy armor and tanks. The stripe represents a baldric, similar to a Sam Browne belt which was a belt worn over the right shoulder and flowing to the opposite hip. Finally, the horse head harkens to the cavalry's original mounts and its original structure.
During the Vietnam War, a subdued version was adopted for combat uniforms as both a unit patch, worn on the left sleeve, and as a combat patch, donned on the right.
Karres addressed the crowd during a speech, emphasizing a few of the other things that the patch represents which were not mentioned during the reading of the patch history.
"I'm very proud and challenge each of you to live up to the responsibility of being part of the First Team family," said Karres. "[The patch] is a symbol of selfless service and you are forever a member of the First Team."
Toward the end of the ceremony, the Soldiers stood with shiny new patches on their right sleeves and joined in singing the Army Song as the 1st Cav. Div. Band played the tune.
For many Soldiers the ceremony represented their first time receiving a combat patch denoting their first time in a combat zone. For others who have served with previous units it was their second or third, and in some cases, fourth time receiving a combat patch but their first time while serving in the Cav.
Pfc. Rosanne Robinson, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist for Co. A, DSTB said the ceremony was one of the highlights of her tour and something that she has been looking forward to for quite some time.
"This is definitely one of my short-term goals so it's just one more thing to mark off my list," said Robinson, who hails from Granite City, Ill., explaining that she is keeping track of all the significant events that will take place for her during this particular deployment as it is her first time in a combat zone.
Versailles, Ohio native Spc. Chaene Kingrey, an intelligence specialist with Co. B, DSTB, said the experience is one he would not have missed for the world.
"I'm very excited and I can't put into words the emotions that I'm feeling," Kingrey said. "And I'm looking forward to the rest of the deployment."
"You can always hear what it's like here in Iraq but until you've actually experienced it-you really don't feel like you're part of the Cav," Kingrey added, explaining that getting the combat patch makes him feel much more like part of the First Team.
Although receiving a combat patch might seem like something commonplace, the Soldiers said it represents something much larger-it is a symbol for the reason they are serving in the combat zone.
"Our mission here is a good thing and something I definitely believe in," said Robinson. "This is what I've wanted to do since I was a contractor working in Iraq in 2005, but I was too old. But when the age limit [to join the Army] was raised, I jumped in and wanted to be a part of history."
"The military as a whole--we've really come a long way with the things we've accomplished since OIF I," said Kingrey. "As more things are turned over to the Iraqis it shows those of us deployed and the folks back in the states that we're one step closer to coming home."
"I like what we're doing here," added Kingrey. "I see the mission as a whole as worthwhile and we're making a difference."
Immediately following the ceremony, DSTB leadership hosted a cake-cutting ceremony for the newly initiated First Team combat patch holders and also presented them with certificates indicating that they are authorized to wear shoulder sleeve insignia for former wartime service.