News: Maine Unit Recognized for Valor
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
AUGUSTA, Maine - Between April 1 and Aug. 31, 2010, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division conducted combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Ghazni, Paktua, Paktika and Khowst provinces in eastern Afghanistan. The units that deployed with the 101st are being recognized for their actions, and their ability to go beyond the call of duty during that five month period.
Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), Maine Army National Guard is one of the units that served under the 101st during that time period. At a ceremony at the Brewer Armory, Sunday Sept. 9, the soldiers were officially recognized for their role in earning the Valorous Unit Award, the second highest unit decoration that a U.S. Army unit can earn.
The Valorous Unit Award is a prestigious recognition of extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy of the U.S. while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force. A caveat to this is that the unit must have done this while under difficult and hazardous conditions in accomplishing its mission.
Brig. Gen. James Campbell, The adjutant gheneral for Maine emphasized the importance of this award during the ceremony.
“The Valorous Unit Award is given to an organization that performs activities in combat that would earn an individual a Silver Star,” he said. “The company is the first unit in the Maine National Guard to ever get this award.”
Campbell served as Bravo Company commander from 1996-1998 as his first significant assignment in the Maine Army National Guard, and they have since held a special place in his heart.
“Bravo Company has matured since its inception in the mid 1980’s,” he said. “They bring a unique mountain warfare capability to the fight.”
Staff Sgt. Nathaniel McCray deployed with Bravo Company during that time. The infantryman, from Augusta, and about 150 soldiers from the Maine Army National Guard occupied a small combat outpost in the Paktika province, between 200 and 400 meters from the Pakistan border.
The company was located on a major supply route that connected some of the major cities in Pakistan to Kabul.
“We were strategically placed there to disrupt any major supply routes and to disrupt any fighters coming from Pakistan, who were trying to bring any arms, munitions or personnel through the area” said McCray. “The enemies were trying to get to Kabul so they could continue to disrupt the American and the International Security Assistance Force that were trying to conduct business there, we acted as a roadblock.”
Capt. Paul Bosse served as the Bravo Company commander during their time in Afghanistan. The remote location they operated in meant longer days for the soldiers, and very little downtime.
“We were out in the battle space on a daily basis, not just running patrols from the combat outpost, but we were actually running an observation post that was really austere and could come under attack at any time,” said Bosse, a native of Auburn.
The soldiers worked on a rotating schedule where they spent two weeks at the combat outpost, then two weeks guarding the observation tower, and then rotated to the mission platoon that conducted operations in the area on a daily basis. “They never really had any downtime so to speak,” he said. “They earned this award, every bit as much as any other company.”
McCray said he is proud to be part of a company that earned this award, not just because of its reflection on the unit, but because it was earned as a collective group effort.
“I think it is absolutely outstanding, there is no greater award than a unit award,” said McCray. “You can get awards, a lot of people do great things and get awarded for their individual efforts, but to be awarded the Valorous Unit Award for working together as a team and accomplishing a mission as a team, is so much more rewarding. When we deploy, we aren’t doing things for ourselves, but for everyone else that is with is us, our teammates. Its very rewarding, and just a great feeling to know that we not only did what we were supposed to do, but we did it extraordinarily and as a team and now everyone gets to reap the benefits of it, not just one person. “
Bosse said he is very proud of the soldiers he served with. New soldiers have come into the unit, others have changed units or left the National Guard, but he sincerely hopes that everyone hears about this award. He said he is very thankful that these men are being formally recognized for something he knew all along.
“I feel like I deployed with a really strong team, and this award is just them being recognized by the Army, and our country for something that I knew already,” said Bosse. “They were a valorous unit and they fought every bit as hard if not harder than their active duty counterparts. I think that the people of Maine should be really proud of the group of guys that went to serve in 2010 in Dand Wa Patan, Afghanistan.”