News: 'Outlaws' continue mission, say best of luck to outgoing commander
Story by 1st Lt. Meghan E. Keefe
AL BAKIR AIRFIELD, Iraq — In a crowded gymnasium Soldiers pack in and form up to watch the change of command ceremony between Capt. Matthew Wagoner and Capt. Jim Wade while deployed to Iraq, Dec. 5.
Wagoner and Wade of Clarksville and Nashville, Tenn., have called the 37th Engineer Battalion- Joint Task Force Eagle, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., family for the past three years. As they waited for company 1st Sgt. Erran Joseph to call the A Company "Outlaws" to attention, they exchanged words as friends and fellow paratroopers filled the gymnasium.
Wagoner took command of the A Company Outlaws in June 2008 and since that time has bonded with many of the Soldiers under his charge and feels that his company's success is attributed, in part, to the character of an Outlaw.
"I believe A Company accomplishes so much because we are resilient, and I hope by having this mentality I have lead this company true," said Wagoner during his outgoing speech to the young men who stood before him.
A graduate of Xavier University, Wagoner received his commission through ROTC. He served with the 65th Eng. Bn., based out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. In February 2004, he deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 4 for 12 months with the 65th Eng. Bn. to the newly established Combined Forces Command — Afghanistan as the C7 operations officer.
Following the Captain's Career Course, in June 2006, Wagoner joined the 20th Engineer Brigade and the following year deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 09-07 as support to Multinational Corps — Iraq as the C7 force generation officer. It is there for no surprise that he brought significant leadership, technical skills and tactical knowledge to the Outlaws as they prepared for and executed missions in Iraq.
You can test Wagoner's reputation by asking any Soldier or senior NCO what kind of leader he is.
"Captain Wagoner reminds me of my days as a young sergeant when we were required to know over a dozen dynamics a leader. Amongst them were approachability, humor, knowledge of self and seeking self improvement, tact and vision. These are just a few of the personal qualities of Captain Wagoner. He truly is an innovative leader that will leave a genetic fingerprint on every Soldier, NCO, and officer that he comes in contact with," said Sgt. 1st Class Chad T. Etzel of Fayetteville, N.C., and a platoon sergeant in A Company.
The commander of 37th Eng. Bn. - JTF Eagle, Lt. Col. Paul Huszar, said that "under the command of Captain Matt Wagoner, the Outlaws have consistently demonstrated their true agility and flexibility throughout this deployment. Their efforts were remarkably led and enhanced all the more, under the dynamic and charismatic leadership of their truly superb commander, Matt Wagoner."
The incoming commander, Huszar went onto say, is no stranger to JTF Eagle.
"Jim is no stranger to the 37th Eng. Bn. as he was the guy who brought the air into airborne prior to deployment as our S3 Air officer. He brings with him remarkable talent and experience and we welcome the fresh set of eyes and injection of new energy into the Outlaws which will take us to the finish line and beyond."
Wade knows that there are big shoes to fill, as the Outlaws have made a name for themselves as one of the finest Sapper platoons in the engineer community.
During his incoming speech Wade said that "I have watched A Company excel in every way under past leadership, with the determination of their Soldiers and NCOs to guide them. They have done a superb job and I look forward to continuing their legacy."