By Capt. Aubrey McCary, 1st AAB, 3rd ID, USD-CSeptember 9, 2010
BAGHDAD - Soldiers with Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Division - Center, and its attached engineers of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st AAB, received combat badges at Contingency Operating Station Falcon, Iraq, Aug. 26.
Major General Tony Cucolo, commanding general of 3rd ID, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews, command sergeant major of 3rd ID, made a special stop at the BSTB Headquarters to present 36 Combat Action Badges and Combat Medical Badges, recognizing Soldiers who came under fire and engaged enemy forces in combat on different occasions this past summer.
The brigade has been separated from 3rd ID during its deployment and currently supports 1st Armored Division and USD-C. Major General Cucolo and Command Sgt. Major Andrews, who will welcome the brigade home upon redeployment to Fort Stewart, Ga., reminded the Soldiers of their Dog Face Soldier roots.
Sergeant Brian Watford, a truck commander with E Co., and an Alma, Ga., native, who received a Combat Action Badge, said it was an honor to have Maj. Gen. Cucolo present the award.
"(It meant a lot) to have the commanding general award us the Combat Action Badges because it shows that the highest level of our leadership is tracking our progress," he said. "Route clearance (has been) one of the most active jobs in Iraq."
Sergeant Watford said the badges served as a reminder of valuable lessons learned.
"The best part about my job is that I get to work with Soldiers and go outside the wire every day," Sgt. Watford said. "(During the attack) I was able to experience the Warrior Ethos firsthand. It has shown me that as a leader, rehearsals are one of the most important things to do before missions."
Specialist William Bullock, a military policeman and Bastrop, Texas native also received a CAB. He was on a patrol with the base quick reaction force when his convoy was hit with an explosively formed projectile. As the damaged vehicle caught fire, he reacted quickly to help his fellow Soldiers evacuate safely.
Specialist Bullock said despite the close call, he embraces the opportunity to continue patrols.
"You need to know that it can happen to anybody," Spc. Bullock said. "I like what I do. I know it's for a good cause."
Specialist Joshua Blair, a driver with E Co., and a Napa, Idaho native, who received a CAB, said the improvised explosive device explosion that struck his convoy was a bittersweet moment.
"(As an Engineer) I would have rather found the IED (before it exploded) and not gotten the badge," he said
Specialist Blair said the experience he has gained on his first deployment has been invaluable.
"My combat experience has better prepared me for my job in the Army," he said. "Performing route clearance on a daily basis allowed me to become a subject matter expert on these operations."
Specialist Blair said he has one Family Member in particular who will be extremely proud of his CAB.
"My grandfather was an engineer in World War II, and he always talked to me about using demolitions," Spc. Blair said. "I like working with demolitions (as well). It is a special bond that we have together."
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hansen, commander of BSTB, thanked Maj. Gen. Cucolo and Command Sgt. Maj. Andrews for traveling so far to recognize the Desert Cat Soldiers for their accomplishments.
"I am awed by your hard work, the discipline with which you prepare for and execute each mission, and the dedication, teamwork and good judgment you show every day," Lt. Col. Hansen said. "Prepared and employed properly, your equipment works and will protect you. Your training and rehearsals paid off. You executed your battle drills properly, and you prevailed over an increasingly ineffective and frustrated enemy."
After the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Cucolo addressed the Soldiers as a group, acknowledging the diverse specialties across the battalion and commending the Soldiers for accepting non-traditional roles and missions and excelling in them. He also stressed the importance of the work the Soldiers continue to do in Baghdad as part of an AAB, helping to train, advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces.
"You gave 26 million people the best chance they have at freedom and self-determination they've have ever had," Maj. Gen. Cucolo said, "That's something to be proud of; that is something worthy of sacrifice. And it's also something that is going to take patience and time."