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First Soldiers receive Combat Action Badge

By Cheryl Boujnida

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 29, 2005) – At a Pentagon ceremony today, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker awarded the Army’s new Combat Action Badge for the first time to five Soldiers who engaged in combat with the enemy.

The CAB, approved by Schoomaker in May, was created by the Army's leadership to recognize all Soldiers in combat. Soldiers engaged in the War on Terrorism since Sept. 18, 2001, are retroactively eligible to receive the award.

“Today is an historical day for the Army. These Soldiers, who represent our total Army, know what being a Soldier and a warrior stands for,” Schoomaker said. “The Soldiers standing here have earned the right to be American – they have walked the walk, they stand for nobility and they represent the Warrior Ethos.”

Schoomaker and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston presented Combat Action Badges to:

• Sgt. Michael Buyas, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division

• Sgt. Manuel J. Montano, 21st Military Police Company

• Sgt. Sean Steans, 377th Transportation Company, 3rd COSCOM

• Army Reserve Sgt. April Pashley, 404th Civil Affairs Battalion

• Army National Guard Sgt. Timothy Gustafson, 1st Battalion, 278th Regimental Combat Team

“These Soldiers are a reflection of the Army team fighting the Global War on Terrorism,” Preston said. “Sit down and talk with any one of them and you’ll find they are Americans who chose to be a part of something bigger than themselves and serve our nation at large.”

Standing in front of the Warrior Ethos display, about 100 ceremony attendees congratulated the Army’s first CAB recipients. Four of the five awardees were wounded in combat. Buyas, a native of Orondo, Wash., lost both of his legs from an improvised explosive device used by enemy forces while he was on security patrol in a Stryker vehicle near Mosul, Iraq, Dec. 23.

“After being in a coma for 12 days, I woke up on New Year’s Eve. I made it my New Year’s resolution that I would one day walk again,” he said.

Buyas, who said he is coping with his injuries and plans to attend law school at the University of Washington next year, was honored to be one of the first recipients of the award.

“Words can’t describe how I feel today. I am proud to be the first in a long line of Soldiers,” Buyas said. “I’m not the first to earn this award and I am glad that it will be retroactively awarded – it’s important to take care of all Soldiers who served in combat too.”

Gustafson, originally from Leavenworth, Kan, lost part of his right leg while he was conducting a pipeline security mission when enemy forces detonated an improvised explosive device near his Humvee.

He said that his life has been an adjustment period. “I’m learning to walk all over again. Sometimes when I am lying in bed and try to stand up, it strikes me that I am an amputee. I continue to enjoy life and look forward to sharing it with my wife with the new twist that God has given us,” Gustafson said.

“I don’t know if the terrorists understand the type of life we are fighting for but I think they will understand in the long run.”

Pashley, the first Army woman to receive the award, was performing duties as a guard from the rooftop of a building housing Coalition Forces when armed insurgents attacked using 106mm rockets. She continued to perform her defensive duties without hesitation as rounds landed within 100-150 meters of her position.

“This was the job I chose to do and I do so with pride. Seeing the changes in the Iraqi people during my 15-month deployment was really something. To see the excitement in their eyes made me proud to be a Soldier,” Pashley said.

Serving in the first wave of Soldiers who deployed to Iraq in 2003, Pashley said she is ready to serve again if duty calls.

In response to a woman receiving the award, Command Sgt. Maj. Michele Jones, sergeant major of the Army Reserve, said a Soldier is a Soldier regardless of gender.

“The Army Reserve has approximately 25 percent of women serving in its ranks, so it makes sense that a woman would receive the award today. She’s a Soldier, who happens to be female,” Jones said.

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