By Mr. Mark Iacampo (IMCOM)May 24, 2011
HOHENFELS, Germany - Duty. Honor. Country. To the men and women serving in our armed forces, those words have a meaning far beyond what can be found in Webster's dictionary.
The MacArthur Leadership Award recognizes 28 company grade officers across the Army, National Guard, and Army Reserves each year who epitomize these ideals, and 1st. Lt. Daniel M. Meegan, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion 4th Infantry Regiment, earned that honor for 2010.
Deployed with Delta Company to the Zabul Province of Afghanistan as a platoon leader in March 2010, Meegan took command of Combat Outpost Baylough with a company-sized unit comprised of U.S. and Romanian Soldiers, as well as Afghan National Security Forces.
"Given responsibility beyond his experience and rank, 1st Lt. Meegan excelled," said Col. John M. Spiszer, Joint Multinational Readiness Center commander. "Lt. Meegan superbly led a company's worth of US joint, multinational troops for six months under spartan conditions while in direct contact with the enemy and with little contact with his chain of command. His effectiveness was only possible through his leadership by example and selfless concern for all soldiers and the mission, which quickly established the informal authority vital to leadership under these conditions."
"Not only was he able to go out there and take charge and make things happen but he did an outstanding job and brought the fight to the enemy. He was out there with his guys in every firefight... leading from the front," said Captain Andrew C. Johannes, HHC 1t-4th Inf. Regt. commander.
During the 7 months he commanded at Baylough, Meegan planned and led his soldiers on over 170 combat patrols. More than 40 of his patrols came in direct combat action against the Taliban, all of them resulting in enemy killed, captured or wounded with no friendly losses.
While acknowledging a little luck and good grace, Meegan attributes this success to the rigorous training that prepared his soldiers both mentally and physically to take the fight to the enemy.
"When (my men) fought the enemy, they knew they weren't fighting somebody who was just there on a deployment. They knew they were fighting somebody who was there to win," said Meegan.
"My duty to my soldiers is to plan and prepare well enough so that... when I send them on a mission or when I go on a mission with them, they're prepared to accomplish it, they are ready to accomplish it, and I've mitigated or I've reconciled myself to the risks involved in it," he said.
Meegan's passion for excellence showed early in his career as he became the honor graduate of his basic training battalion and his Officer Candidate School class. As an officer, he also made the Commandant's list at Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course.
"All too often in the world in general, mediocrity is acceptable, and it's simply not in our career field," Meegan said. "The American Soldier has one true purpose in life, and that purpose is to win at whatever task you're given...It could be anything from making sure the grass is mowed to fighting in combat. You do it right, you do it properly and you do it professionally, cause that's the job we're in."
This attitude continually inspired the Soldiers under his command.
"He's confident within himself so it carries on throughout the platoon, to give us confidence to achieve what we need to," said Spc. William Fellows, who served with Meegan in Afghanistan. "He knew we could get the job done, and we did."
Meegan's influence extended beyond even his Soldiers and his ANSF. He earned the respect and admiration of the local population through honest communication and hard work.
"They always knew that if they came to us they weren't going to get a wishy-washy answer," he said. "They may not agree with our answer, but they always knew they were going to get an honest answer."
Working at the local level, Meegan and his unit instituted "grass roots" programs to improve the quality of life for the local farmers. In an area where bulldozers couldn't penetrate, they rebuilt roughly a mile of road with a "whole mess of shovels" and a lot of sweat.
"We instituted a volunteer program," said Meegan, who explained to the Afghans that they would receive the benefit of the road. "If you show up and help us build this road...we'll feed you for the day."
As Meegan labored alongside of his men, one of the tribal leaders told him that he never expected to see Americans out digging in the dirt with the Afghans.
"Well," Meegan replied, "I told you I was going to do that."
Currently, Meegan is the weapons platoon leader for the HHC, 1-4th Inf. Regt. His standard of excellence remains high.
"Often times when your back here at the garrison and there's down time, usually the Soldiers, they take advantage of that," said Johannes. "(Meegan) really wants to train his soldiers, to utilize all the possible time available to train and to prepare them to go downrange."
"A lot of what we do is making sure my soldiers are exceptional," Meegan said. He explained that while the 1-4th Inf. Regt. is no longer deploying, they are responsible for training the Soldiers that are.
"What they deserve is a world class OPFOR (opposing force) who's going to go out and thrash them so that when they go out to wherever it is that they're going...they're confident in their capabilities," he said.
Meegan attended an award ceremony at the Pentagon May 19 where General Martin E. Dempsey, Army Chief of Staff presented him with an engraved watch, a bronze bust of General MacArthur, and a commendation memorandum.
"Really to me it symbolizes all the work that my soldiers did, that my team did, that my platoon did," said Meegan. "While I'm being recognized for it, I know it's the work that they did, so it will be a constant reminder to me of the capability, the honesty and really the love that American Soldiers have for their job, for their country, and really for all of humanity."