By Spc. Heather ToddApril 30, 2010
BAGHDAD (April 30, 2010) -- In October 2005, members of Company B of the Ohio-based 612th Engineer Battalion lost one of their own.
Sgt. Jeremy Hodge, 20, from Rushylvania, Ohio, was killed in action when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during a route-clearance mission.
Over the past several years, the Task Force Iron Claw Academy, or TFICA, has been conducting classes inside of a schoolhouse at Camp Liberty, named in memory of the Soldier: "Hodge Hall."
TFICA has been responsible for training U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces about how to identify and safely respond to IEDs that are discovered on route-clearance missions.
As the responsible drawdown of forces continues, and the ISF become capable of executing independent route-clearance missions, the academy has closed its doors and the sign proclaiming it "Hodge Hall" has been taken down and will eventually be presented to Hodges' family.
"I think it is important to honor him and his sacrifice," said 1st Lt. Craig Smith, former officer in charge of the academy. "It also sent a clear message to the students, that they have a very tough and dangerous mission, and they had better take it seriously."
Smith is honored to be presenting the sign to the Hodge Family.
"The Hodges had to bear what no parent should have to. I would hope that they realize that Jeremy has not been forgotten, nor the sacrifice that he made. Every U.S. Soldier that came through TFICA saw that sign and learned about Jeremy."
Col. Robert Phillips, the commander of the 612th Engineer Battalion at the time of Hodge's death, has deployed to Iraq again as chief of staff for the 16th Engineer Brigade.
"It was nice to see that after five years Hodge Hall was still being used," said Phillips.
The Soldiers who were responsible for the removal and preservation of the Hodge Hall sign were keenly aware of its meaning and where the sign was headed.
"It was an honor to be able to have a part in getting the sign down," said Spc. Scott Vaughan, of Belding, Mich.
Once the 16th Engineer Brigade, Hodge's former brigade headquarters, completes its deployment, the sign will leave Iraq and be presented to Hodges' mother and step-father, Michelle and Steve Norris, during a fallen Soldier memorial service.
The idea for the personal exchange was suggested by Brig. Gen. Glenn C. Hammond III, the current commander of the 16th Engineer Brigade.
"We're giving the family a memorial that they can put up somewhere ... It is an honor to take the sign home with us when we leave here," Hammond said.
Hodge Hall may no longer display Sgt. Jeremy Hodge's name, but his legacy will continue on in the hearts and minds of the Soldiers who followed in his footsteps.
(Spc. Heather Todd writes for the 1192nd Eng. Co., 16th Eng. Bde., USD-C.)