By Sgt. Ricardo Branch, Warrior Brigade Public Affairs OfficeOctober 11, 2010
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq - The United States Division-North Commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo paid a special visit to the Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment "Gimlets" for an award ceremony Oct. 6 at Forward Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq.
More than 500 U.S. and Iraqi Soldiers packed the Salie Gym to pay tribute to their fellow Soldiers being recognized by the command during the ceremony.
"I'm truly honored to be here," Maj. Gen. Cucolo said to the gathered Soldiers. "In my position, I see many awards pushed forward but it's never the same as being here to recognize those individuals in person."
He added, "I don't often get to see the face or shake the hand when I sign off on an award, so I'm truly humbled to have the opportunity to look some of those outstanding Soldiers in the face today and say thank you."
During the ceremony, six Bronze Star medals with V devices for valor, three Purple Heart medals, four Army Commendation medal, 21 Combat Infantry Badges, and three Combat Action Badges were awarded to the Soldiers. Most awards were given to the Soldiers following the recent operation in the palm grove event early last month.
First Lieutenant Michael Conway, platoon leader for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 21st Infantry and Bronze Star recipient was humbled to receive an award from Maj. Gen. Cucolo.
"It hasn't really hit me yet," 1st Lt. Conway said. "I wasn't really expecting to receive this award. For me, the actions which earned me the Bronze Star medal are just me doing my job."
The circumstances which led to 1st Lt. Conway and many of his Soldiers receiving the Bronze Star and various other medals began Sept. 12, which started as an operation with Iraqi Army soldiers clearing a palm grove.
"My platoon was tasked with supporting an Iraqi Army unit, which was clearing a palm grove near the town of Al Huda," 1st Lt. Conway said. "When we got there, the Iraqis were doing assaults into the area to try and clear out some insurgents."
The 24-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., native then had seven of his Soldiers join with the Iraqis in the next assault on the palm grove. The mission ended after a few more assaults and the assistance of air support to remove the insurgents from the area.
"For our guys, they did everything asked of them," 1st Lt. Conway said. "They put themselves in harm's way and in many cases just to help Iraqis."
He credits the award he received, as well as that of his Soldiers, as doing what they had to do during the event.
"Looking back, I don't feel that I necessarily did anything above and beyond the call of duty," 1st Lt. Conway said. "I'm sure if you asked everyone there we just did what we had to do to get the situation fixed."
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Molinari, commander of 1-21 Inf. Regt. and recipient of the Bronze Star with V device, reflected on the deeds of his Soldiers as a testament to their skills.
"Once the Soldiers got here [in Diyala province], they hit the ground running and it makes me proud to see them honored for their actions and not for their words," he said. "It's days like today that I'm truly humbled to lead these Soldiers."
The Soldiers of 1-21 Inf. Regt. are with the 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division from Schofield Barracks, HI, and serve in Diyala province of Iraq to advise, assist and train Iraqi Security Forces.