BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- When one thinks of combat deployments, they typically think of families being separated by thousands of miles and several time zones. But for one Screaming Eagle family, their deployment brought them closer together. Literally. Five months ago, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Benning was handpicked to deploy to eastern Afghanistan as a Security Force Assistance Team adviser with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). That decision, and the events that followed, scripted a story that ended with his father, U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Thomas M. Pollack, presenting him the Combat Action Badge during a ceremony here March 29. Both father and son are currently deployed to Afghanistan as part of Regional Command-East. Pollack, a native of Pembine, Wis., serves as the Joint Operations Center sergeant major with Operations Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Bagram Airfield. Benning, a cavalry scout assigned to 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, 101st Abn. Div., and Lawrenceburg, Ind. native, works out of Combat Outpost Honacker-Miracle in nearby Kunar Province. "It's good and bad," said Pollack when asked about what it meant to pin the badge on his son. "As a Soldier, when you see the Combat Action Badge it's about duty, honor and country. But at the same time, it's your kid. His mom wasn't very thrilled about it when we explained the details." The Combat Action Badge, established on June 3, 2005, provides special recognition to Soldiers who personally engage the enemy, or are engaged by the enemy during combat operations. The bayonet and grenade on the badge are associated with active combat while the oak wreath symbolizes strength and loyalty. Benning recalled the events of January 29, 2013 that led to him receiving his Combat Action Badge.
"I was the .50 caliber (M2 machine gun) gunner," said Benning. "We were doing an observation post assessment with the Afghan National Army. We had a dismounted element that moved up the ridgeline into the mountains. On their way back down, we all received small-arms fire from PKM and RPK machine guns. I was covering the movement of the dismounted element, giving them some covering fire so they could move." After the ceremony, Benning had the opportunity to video chat with his mother, Theresa, who is currently at Fort Campbell, Ky., where the 101st Abn. Div. is based. "She knows that he's here and I'm here and that makes her feel 100 percent better," said Benning. "That generalized comfort level is there for her. She worries; she's got her husband and her oldest son deployed in a combat zone."
Though Pollack and Benning are geographically separated by over 100 miles, they plan to stay in contact regularly with one another with the resources available. "I've got Skype and e-mail," said Benning. "He scheduled his mid-tour leave right around the time I go back home, so we'll be able to link up back at Fort Campbell again. We plan to go fishing, probably hit a pond or two. That's one thing we do share is fishing. We are both part of the 5 pound club." Pollack, however, seems to remember differently. "Mine was closer to 8 and a half (pounds)," he added, suppressing a grin. Pollack summed up the experience by stating, "I'm immensely proud that my son is over here at the same time I am. You know, that doesn't happen very often. I always wish him the best and I try to keep his mom reassured."