Army Vice Chief Awards, Seeks Views Of, Troops in Iraq
By Spc. James P. Hunter, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2006 It was a day for some troops serving in Iraq to remember. Some were re-enlisting, some received Purple Heart Medals and other troops were being awarded combat infantryman, medical and action badges. The day meant even more to the soldiers because the presenter was Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff.
Gen. Richard A. Cody, vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army, recites the oath of enlistment to soldiers of 1st Battalion, 327th Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during a reenlistment ceremony last week. Cody visited troops at various forward operating bases throughout Iraq during his two-day visit. Photo by Spc. James P. Hunter, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Cody visited with troops at various forward operating bases throughout Iraq last week. He reenlisted over 150 soldiers, awarded four Purple Heart Medals, a Bronze Star Medal and numerous combat badges to soldiers for their hard work and dedication in fighting the war on terror.
Spc. Frank Crisafulli, administrator for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Infantry Division, was among the soldiers who took the oath of enlistment from Cody at Camp Liberty. Crisafulli, who called being reenlisted by a four-star general a once-in-a-lifetime chance. He said he feels that his job in Iraq is not finished yet and hopes to pass his experience on to his fellow soldiers.
Spc. Jeremy Lancaster, a medic with the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, called it an amazing experience to receive his combat medical badge from the Army vice chief of staff. He said having a high-ranking general officer award him his CMB lets him know soldiers are appreciated for their efforts on the ground.
Lancaster received the award for his actions during his first mission in early October. His convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, and Lancaster dismounted the vehicle and ran toward the smoke. He heard small-arms fire in the background, but focused on treating the wounded soldiers.
"The more pressure I'm under, the more focused I am even though (the enemy) is firing at me," Lancaster said. "I know (the soldiers) count on me, just as much as I count on them."
Although Cody awarded many troops during his visit, he said he came to Iraq most importantly to see firsthand the progress the military is making and to speak with servicemembers and junior leaders.
The general said he wanted the servicemembers' assessment of their training before deployment and in Kuwait and how well it prepared them for their mission. "I wanted to hear from the soldiers what they thought about the equipment, what they thought about their leaders, as well as their assessment on how they think their unit mission was going here in Iraq," he said.
Whether it was a company, platoon, battalion or brigade-sized element he visited, Cody said the soldiers a felt the training they received was on target and set them up for success.
"Every soldier told me they had the best equipment. They were confident in their equipment, but more importantly they were competent in their equipment," Cody said. "Whether it be a weapon system, a digital battle-command system, a communications system or radar, our soldiers (are) competent in the equipment we gave them, and they (are) extremely confident in their ability to utilize that equipment."
In his 34 years of service, Cody said these soldiers are the best equipped he has ever seen. When talking with many of the troops, the general said they relayed to him their confidence in their leadership. He asked several young soldiers who they would nominate for an award or coin, and they always nominated their platoon sergeant, platoon leader, company commander or first sergeant. "They trust them and they know they're well led," he said.
Soldiers also expressed to the general their respect for the Iraqi army and the progress they have witnessed. "They're confident that the Iraqi Army is going to be able to take over the mission and provide the Iraqi people a safe and secure environment," Cody said. Cody said the soldiers are proud to train and patrol with the Iraqi forces to better the Iraqi army.
He said he saw the things he wanted to see and learned a tremendous amount from the young men and women serving. "I'm taking those things they taught me and going back to the Army staff. I'm going to challenge the Army staff to continue to respond to the innovativeness and operational needs of the soldier here in (combat)," Cody said.
Cody said he'd also like to send a message to the troops he didn't get a chance to meet, to tell them how proud he, the Army and the American people are of them. "We're proud of them because they have stepped forward at America's time of need to answer the call to duty," he said.
"I'm proud of them because they exhibit teamwork everyday. They exhibit professionalism, discipline, and they're accomplishing a very tough mission here in Iraq. And they're doing it very well."
(Spc. James P. Hunter is assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 49th Public Affairs Detachment (Airborne).)