KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – First in Tokyo, first in Pyongyang. Now, among the last in Kandahar.
On Aug. 1, the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters, serving as headquarters, International Security Assistance Force Regional Command-South, held a historic combat patch ceremony, marking the continuation of the storied First Team legacy.
The division’s mission is to transition United States and NATO operations in southern Afghanistan from combat to a focus on training, advising, and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces.
The ceremony, held under the hot Afghanistan sun, formally recognized each Soldier’s authorization to wear the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia, Former Wartime Service, also known as the “combat patch.”
The patch for the 1st Cavalry Division, given to each soldier during the ceremony, is easily recognizable. Designed by Col. And Mrs. Ben Dorsey, while serving as the commander of the 7th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas, the design reflects the history and traditions of the cavalry.
The patch is shaped as a triangular Norman shield, with yellow, the traditional color of the cavalry, as its dominant color. On the shield, at the upper right portion of the patch, is a black horse head, representing the horse-mounted cavalry tradition while the black stripe on the patch, moving from bottom right to top left, represents a baldric, a standard Army issue belt worn to secure either a saber or a revolver. The horse head and the baldric are black to symbolize the iron used in tanks and armored vehicles, the current method of travel for the cavalry.
“Today…we are marking a rite of passage, as we join a proud legacy of thousands of 1st Cavalry Division veterans who earned the right to wear that recognized cavalry yellow and black patch on the right shoulders,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Bills, commanding general of 1st Cav. Div and RC-South.
The ceremony began with the commanding general receiving his combat patch or getting “branded,” in the horse cavalry tradition, from Brig. Gen. Doug Gabram, the RC-S deputy commanding general, followed immediately by the patching of Command. Sgt. Maj. Andrew Barteky, the command’ s senior enlisted adviser. After the senior leaders received their patches, they turned to give the unit’s youngest Soldier, Pfc. Tionna Baynes, a command group communications specialist from Virginia Beach, Virginia, her patch.
Baynes said getting the patch from the CG “was rewarding, because it’s my first deployment.” She added that it was “very humbling and an honor to contribute to the First Team, knowing the history of the unit and that (even though she’s only 19) no matter what age we are, we’re all part of the team.”
During this ceremony, the Soldiers of CJTF-1 did not, however, don the famous yellow and black cavalry patches, but instead the subdued green and black patches authorized with the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern. The use of subdued patches continues a tradition that started when Maj. Gen. Harry Kinnard, the First Team commander in Vietnam, decided to subdue the patch to minimize the enemy’s ability to identify Soldiers in the field who were wearing such an easily identifiable patch.
Following Baynes’ patching, the CG then presented the patches to key leaders within the staff. Each leader then had the opportunity to honor their Soldiers with confident slaps on the shoulder, placing the patch on each trooper’s sleeve.
For some of the Soldiers, this was their first combat patch. Capt. Carlos Ramirez, the RC-S chief of military justice, was one of these Soldiers. Ramirezalso took this opportunity to honor a family member who also deployed with the First Team.
“My uncle, Jimmy Ramirez, who was an infantryman in the division during Desert Storm, gave me a set of BDUs in 1996. At the time, I thought the 1st Cav. patch was really cool and decided to keep it.”
Ramirez, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been carrying the patch in his pocket since he found out he would be deploying with the First Team, as a way to honor his uncle, who passed away in 2001.
“I’ve been keeping this patch for a number of years,” he said. “Even though it isn’t technically the right patch, it’s my way to honor my family and my uncle’s service.”
For others, this combat-patch ceremony was something different, an opportunity to add the First Team patch to their uniform, carry on the proud legacy of the unit, and write another chapter in their own personal Army story.
“It’s always a privilege to serve in any unit in combat as I’ve done on another deployment,” Capt. Jon Wood, the RC-S Key Leader Engagements chief said, “but to be a part of the first team, a unit with such a storied history, during this mission in Afghanistan, it is an absolute honor.”
While the majority of Soldiers in the CJTF-1 headquarters were from the 1st Cavalry Division, there were other members of the team from other U.S. services and other nations. Regardless of whether or not they were a U.S. Airman or an Australian soldier, every member of the team was awarded a combat patch as a symbol of their contributions to the mission.
“It was a great feeling to be a part of the team for this ceremony,” said Capt. Stefan Andras, an RC-S legal adviser from Slovakia. “The U.S. military has a great history and great traditions and it was an honor to be a part of that today.”
The historical significance of earning the 1st Cav patch was on many Soldiers’ minds during the ceremony, as many recognized that as the number of Soldiers in Afghanistan decreases, so would the opportunity to earn a combat patch.
“This is a big deal for all of the Soldiers here today,” said Sgt. Maj. Mervyn Ripley, the division operations non-commissioned officer in charge. “This is likely the last time, for a while, we will get to do a ceremony like this at the division level.”
||VIRGINIA BEACH, VA, US
This work, Cav team gets ‘Branded’ in Kandahar, by MAJ Christopher Brautigam, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.