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Army welcomes 'Big Red One' back to Germany

By Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow

KITZINGEN, Germany (Army News Service, May 17, 2005) -– Wearing smiles and, for the final time this year, Desert Camouflage Uniforms, Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division celebrated their official homecoming from Iraq during a ceremony May 16 at Harvey Barracks.

For one jam-packed day, the Harvey airfield was transformed into a carnival and parade ground, complete with marching troops, weaving rides, fireworks, and energetic music.

Soldiers from every unit in the division stood proudly on the parade field for the inspection of troops by Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey. Joining Harvey were Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, V Corps commander, and Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, 1st Infantry Division commander.

A short time later, Sanchez presented Silver Star medals to nine division Soldiers: Lt. Col. Peter A. Newell; Maj. Thomas A. Johnson; Capt. Paul A. Fowler; Capt. Kirk A. Mayfield; Capt. Sean P. Sims (awarded posthumously and accepted by his widow, Heidi); 1st Lt. Karl E. Gregory; 1st Sgt. Peter L. Smith; Sgt. Christopher G. Rich and Spc. Larry R. Underwood.

Sanchez also presented a Presidential Unit Citation to the division's 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, while another 10 units received Valorous Unit Citations and 16 more picked up Meritorious Unit Citations.

Following the award presentations, Harvey reflected on the division’s accomplishments during its year in Iraq.

“Recently I had the honor or participating in a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, and to honor the veterans of the greatest generation,” Harvey said. “One of the other speakers there was Sen. Bob Dole, an Army veteran and hero of the Italian campaign. Sen. Dole referred to today’s Soldiers as members of new greatest generation, and I can’t agree with him more.”

Harvey praised the division’s Soldiers for their unwavering dedication to both their mission and the Iraqi people.

“The Big Red One is known for its fighting prowess, but the division also engaged in operations that greatly supported our longer-term goals to defeat extremism and foster democratic reform in the heart of the Middle East. You changed the attitudes of the Iraqi people and gave them alternatives to the insurgency.”

Turning to the subject of those who gave their lives during the deployment, Harvey cited the examples of Spc. David Mahlenbrock and Pfc. John Amos.

Mahlenbbrock was killed Dec. 3, 2004, as the result of an attack with an improvised explosive device.

“He died a warrior and proud member of Task Force Danger, but it’s important to remember that in addition to being a Soldier, David was also a husband and father,” Harvey said. “His wife, Melissa, and newborn daughter, Kadence, were a very special part of David’s life. David’s story has been recounted many times during the global war on terrorism. We as a nation gain resolve from his sacrifice and we will never forget him or the family he left behind.”

Amos died in Kirkuk, Iraq, April 4, 2004, when an IED detonated near his vehicle.

“John Amos left us at the tender age of 20, but he left us with words of wisdom,” Harvey said. “At his funeral, his team leader said that if Pfc. Amos were with us today, he would insist that we continue the mission and not focus on the fact that he is gone. He would tell us to keep our heads up and overcome any obstacles that may come in our path throughout life. Soldiers of Task Force Danger, you continued the mission and overcame many obstacles. I know PFC Amos would be very pleased.”

Batiste reflected on what their year supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom has meant to the division.

“The Soldiers of this great division have once again carried on the legacy of the historic 1st Infantry Division,” Batiste said. “From intense combat operations… to stability and support operations, you did it all, and you did it in spades. Your focus on discipline and standards at every level was apparent. Big Red One Soldiers were renowned for their warfighting tenacity and, at the same time, just as proficient in the business of changing attitudes and giving the Iraqi people alternatives to the insurgency.”

Batiste also acknowledged the division’s partners during the deployment, the Iraqi people.

“Our successes over the past year were not achieved alone. They were achieved by establishing partnerships with the people of Iraq, most notably with the Iraqi security forces,” Batiste said. “Your mentorship, training, and equipping empowered Iraqi security forces, and it provided the foundation to help them defeat the insurgency and provide a safe and secure environment.

“Some of the most rewarding moments over the last year were defined by the courage and enthusiasm of the Iraqi people as they served their country.”

Batiste noted the advances and improvements in education, health, and public works that were accomplished due to the partnership between the 1st Infantry Division and Iraqis.

“You assisted Iraqi leaders in setting priorities for nearly 2,000 projects worth more than $1 billion, creating jobs for thousands of Iraqis,” Batiste said.

The greatest proof, the general said, was that thanks in large part to the division, Iraqis held successful national elections Jan. 30.

“The Iraqi people demonstrated that their future would not be held hostage,” Batiste said. “I will never forget the images of Iraqis celebrating and proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers.”

Batiste paid tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in the division’s quest to bring self-sufficiency and democracy to Iraq.

“The division’s amazing success in Iraq did not come without a cost,” Batiste said. “We will never forget the 193 1st Infantry Division and Task Force Danger Soldiers who gave their full measure during both OIF I and II. On behalf of all the Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division and the people of our great nation, I want once more to acknowledge their service, sacrifice, and the example they set for all of us.”

Some 1st ID Soldiers at the ceremony were willing to share their unique memories of Iraq.

Spc. Christopher Grabowski of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Infantry Division, took part in more than 100 combat missions in Iraq and experienced rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices, and a squad-size ambush at close range.

But it was the positive interaction with Iraqis that he said he remembers most.

“I was attached to Alpha Co. (1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment) for a while, and we’d do a mounted or dismounted patrol,” Grabowski said. “I had a lot of positive interaction with Iraqi people. Some of them would even thank me.”

Grabowksi said he feels the efforts of the coalition forces could pay long-term dividends.

“When you look at other places we’ve fought – Germany and Korea, for example –- those places are a lot better off,” he said. “I’m not going to say it’s because of us or not, but it seems Iraq could become a better place because we’re there.

Pfc. Jason McCoig said that he also sensed the appreciation of the Iraqi people. McCoig serves as a Stinger gunner for B Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery.

“At the beginning, I was hesitant about us going,” he said. “But once we got there I realized we were helping a lot of people. We made a big difference in the year we were down there. We would get out with the public and show them we were there to help them, such as with electricity and water. I definitely saw a change in their attitude toward us over the year.”

The end of the formal welcome-home ceremony was just the beginning of the fun for thousands of division Soldiers and family members on hand. The day’s events also included top-name musical entertainment, a comedian, carnival rides, and a steady stream of hamburgers, ribs, and chicken wings.

(Editor’s note: Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow serves with the 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs Office.)


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