By Pfc. Samantha Schutz, 4th Inf. Div. Public AffairsDecember 29, 2007
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - It was a moment of pride for Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division 'Top Guns,' as they received their combat patches during a ceremony Dec. 22 at their battalion headquarters.
Lt. Col. David Burwell, commander of the 'Top Guns', presented four Soldiers from each of the four batteries in the battalion with the Screaming Eagle patch, and each of the battery commanders issued patches to the remaining Soldiers in their battery.
"Soldiers, wear these patches with pride, for they are well-earned," Burwell said. "Trust me when I say that you will look proudly on this patch for the rest of your lives. You have now officially joined the ranks of many combat veterans before you."
According to Army Regulations, the combat patch, or Shoulder Sleeve Insignia, is authorized for wear as soon as a Soldier deploys to a combat zone.
The 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division has been at Camp Liberty for two months of their expected 15-month deployment.
For many young Soldiers in the unit, including Burbank, Calif., native Kevin Christoffersen, a driver for the battalion's personal security detachment with Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Operation Iraqi Freedom 07-09 is their first tour of duty.
"I knew I would deploy, and I had some clues about what to expect because I looked at people with combat patches as role models," said Christoffersen, who enlisted in the Army a year and a half ago. "Now I've seen it for myself. Now I can be a role model to someone else."
Other Soldiers in the unit were already role models for those who had yet to deploy. These Soldiers switched their previous combat patch to the 101st Airborne Division's unit patch.
Spc. Casey Benson, a native of Kannapolis, N.C., and a gunner for the battalion's personal security detachment with Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, earned the 4th Infantry Division's combat patch when he deployed with the Ironhorse division during OIF 05-07.
"Overall, I think training and deploying with two different units has made me a more well-rounded Soldier," said Benson, who has spent three years in the Army. He said he is grateful for the opportunities that the Army has given him because "some people never even leave the state they live in."
Not every Soldier has the opportunity to deploy to a combat zone, so earning the combat patch is, as Christoffersen put it, "a great honor." As proud as the Soldiers of the 'Top Guns' battalion looked during the ceremony, there is no question they will indeed remember their patches and the moment they received them with pride for the rest of their lives.