By Sgt. Summer Woode, 1HBCT, 1st Inf. Div. Public AffairsFebruary 9, 2012
FORT RILEY, Kan. (Feb. 9, 2012) -- The 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, honored ninety-four of its Soldiers during an awards ceremony held Jan. 30th on Fort Riley.
The Soldiers recently completed their tour and returned home in January to loved ones, rejoining the rest of their brigade at Fort Riley.
Honorees received nearly 100 awards including six Purple Hearts, 76 Bronze Stars, and six Army Commendation Medals for Valor.
Recognized as the most decorated infantry battalion in the Army, the unit, also known as the "Iron Rangers," has served in nearly every major U.S. war, beginning with the Civil War. While training for a deployment to Iraq, the unit received new orders that changed their mission to assisting with "Operation Enduring Freedom," in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. James Smith, battalion commander, said his unit had only a short amount of time to prepare for their new mission.
"Our mission changed and we only had forty-six days of notice," Smith said.
Assigned to support the "Combined Joint Special Task Force," the "Iron Rangers" were deployed to fifty-eight remote locations across Afghanistan. They completed over ten thousand missions as part of Village Stability Operations with the Afghan people. The operations connected the government of Afghanistan to the village level. Afghans learned the ways of their government through conducted training that educated them on their constitution.
Smith said that he felt the mission was a success.
"I felt a lot of pride. We trained transition teams that expanded to one thousand. I think we accomplished the mission superbly. We brought everyone back home," Smith said.
With no personnel losses, the infantrymen stood in formation and were recognized with medals, for their courageous and meritorious service to their nation. Some Soldiers received multiple awards.
Staff Sgt. Caleb Vanvoorhis, received both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was wounded in combat on Jan. 19, 2011. Being in a combat zone, Vanvoorhis knows his situation could have turned out differently. He shared his gratitude towards his team.
"I give all credit to the guys. We got a lot accomplished while we out there. The memory will stick with me forever," Vanvoorhis said.
After a successful mission and another achievement added to the impressive lineage of the battalion, Smith shared his pride in his men.
"Our Soldiers have grown into a lot of maturity. They have developed and are self-sustaining. A lot of thanks goes to the families and Family Readiness Groups. The strength of our family is the strength of our Soldiers."