By Sgt. Serena Hayden, 3rd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsFebruary 12, 2008
Following an indescribably difficult deployment in Diyala province, Iraq, the commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, will be awarded the first 'No Greater Sacrifice' Freedom Award in Washington D.C., Feb. 13.
The award, which will be presented by the No Greater Sacrifice Foundation, represents the hard work and dedication of the "Grey Wolf" Brigade as they faced a fierce enemy under the command of Col. David W. Sutherland, brigade commander.
The foundation helps educate and professionally mentor the children of men and women who have died or been injured in the line of duty. They developed the award to recognize those who have demonstrated the spirit of 'no greater sacrifice' by going the extra mile to honor those who have fallen, saluting those who have served and compassionately caring for those who are left behind.
"This award is very humbling," Sutherland said. "However, this award has nothing to do with me. I accept it as a representation of the bravery, devotion and strength my Soldiers demonstrated during our most difficult deployment to Diyala - especially my fallen and wounded warriors."
In October 2006, Soldiers from the Grey Wolf Brigade deployed for a 14-month tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
Initially slated to serve as the theater reserves stationed in Kuwait, plans for the Grey Wolf Brigade rapidly changed two weeks prior to their deployment, sending the 4,000 Soldiers to Diyala.
"Diyala is known as 'little Iraq' or 'big Baghdad'," said Col. David W. Sutherland, Grey Wolf commander. "Everything in Iraq is in Diyala."
As the brigade arrived, the situation on the ground was changing dramatically from the previous unit's problem set, Sutherland said.
The capitol city, Baqouba, which is located 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, was overrun by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups vying for power, Sutherland added; all of which was a direct result of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's claim that Baqouba was now the capitol of the Caliphate - the Islamic State of Iraq.
"Not only had the terrorists spread fear, but the government and security forces were inundated with corruption and lack of will," Sutherland said. "The people were plagued by fear, and lost all hope in a stable future."
Facing an intricate problem set, Sutherland said he and his staff knew their plans to tackle the problem at hand had to remain persistent and aggressive, having the Soldiers live with the terrorists rather than fight from outlying bases.
After constructing a series of combat outposts across an area the size of Maryland, the majority of the brigade's combat arms Soldiers lived in the cities to conduct continuous and sustained combat operations, only returning to Forward Operating Bases to refit their equipment and reload their supply systems.
"The men and women in my formation fought day in and day out to destroy the terrorists and bring peace to an area plagued by violence, destruction and neglect," Sutherland said. "They went places no man or woman should ever have to go and they saw things no man or woman should ever have to see.
"They remained dedicated to their mission, and determined to bring peace and stability to a population whose normal life consisted of strife and suffering. They are my heroes and their sacrifices are great."
Their sacrifices were great.
In the brigade's 14-month deployment, 110 Soldiers were killed while approximately 300 received serious injuries while conducting combat operations.
Sutherland, accompanied by the brigade's command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Felt, and the brigade chaplain, made it his mission to visit all of them. Driving if they couldn't fly, from Forward Operating Base Warhorse to the Combat Support Hospital in Balad, Iraq, he traveled day or night to pin on their Purple Hearts, salute their service and provide prayer and support.
"The accomplishments of my Soldiers are awe inspiring," Sutherland said. "My Soldiers' professionalism, perseverance and loyalty to the people of Diyala have instilled a new hope throughout the population - a hope that is now enabling the citizens to define their own democracy and fight an enemy that used to fill them with fear.
"It has been a true blessing to lead them in this fight that will remain in all our hearts for years to come," he concluded. "This award is theirs."