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2nd ID Soldiers Pin On Combat Badges
By Seth Robson
Stars and Stripes
European Edition

March 16, 2004,

FIREBASE AGGIE, Iraq Battle hardened soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's Company B, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment received their combat infantryman and combat medical badges on Sunday.

The soldiers, from 2nd ID's 3rd Stryker Brigade, are the first from the Indianhead Division to qualify for the badges since the Korean War, more than 50 years ago.

The company has seen more action than most in Iraq. Since arriving slightly more than three months ago, the unit has engaged the enemy a half-dozen times, killing 15 attackers and detaining 25.

The 5-20th's commander, Lt. Col. Karl Reed, told soldiers at Firebase Aggie, south of Mosul, that they have proved themselves in combat "from the medics to each individual soldier and leader, and especially the combat infantrymen whose job is to close with and kill the enemy."

Col. Mike Rounds, 3rd Stryker Brigade commander, told the soldiers their performance has been phenomenal.

"This is the first time in 50 years that 2[nd] ID has been in combat. You are making as much, if not more, contact than anybody in the brigade," he said.

The day they received their badges was like any other for the soldiers of Company B, who raided several houses in the nearby town of Gab Adr before and after the ceremony.

Some raids since the company's arrival have been simple, involving merely a knock on the door, then quickly clearing rooms and buildings. Others have been more complicated and required doors to be kicked in and buildings searched.

Iraqi reactions to the raids varied. Some men have stood by passively; some women appeared to flirt with the soldiers, while others wailed and cried in fear. Some young children were curious about the strange men in their houses and others cried and hid behind their mothers' skirts.

It was business as usual for Sgt. Barry McCoy, who earlier proudly pinned on his combat infantryman badge.

In Samara on Dec. 5, he was on patrol with Company B's 3rd Platoon when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at his team, bouncing several times before hitting a burned-out truck 15 to 20 feet away, but failing to detonate.

"It was an [improvised explosive device] overwatched by an RPG. There were AK-47s being fired. We got in a decent firefight and killed 14 people," McCoy said.

Later, in the same city, he found himself on a roof in charge of a fire team when one of his snipers saw an armed man moving into position. The sniper shot the enemy before he could engage the team.

"There were always unnerving things happening in Samarra," McCoy said.

When Company B moved to Q-West Forward Operating Base south of Mosul earlier this year, they saw action in the town of Quayarrah.

"We were providing security for a meeting and someone dropped an IED. My squad leader picked up the detonator, which detached when it was dropped. Someone tried to detonate it and he got an electric shock," McCoy said.

His most frightening combat experience was two weeks ago, when a grenade blew him against a wall in Gab Adr.

"The grenade attack was really scary. I could never have prepared myself for anything like that," he said.

All of the soldiers in Company B deserve to wear the combat infantryman and combat medical badges with pride, McCoy said.

However, only about 85 percent of the company's 157 soldiers are eligible for the badge established for infantrymen in 1943. Tankers, artillerymen, fire direction controllers, communications specialists, and nuclear, biological and chemical experts with the unit are not eligible.

For example, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Archey, a tank crewman attached to Company B, did not get a badge even though he has also come under fire in Iraq.

Archey said he is happy for the soldiers who pinned on the badge of a 1795 Springfield Arsenal musket resting upon an oak wreath, but wishes he was at least eligible for the promotion points that go with them.

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars & Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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