1st AD medics given Combat Medical Badges during Baghdad ceremony
By KEVIN DOUGHERTY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 23, 2004
BAGHDAD — On a basketball court ringed with palm trees, a place where not long ago the Iraqi army had fortified positions, 20 U.S. Army medics received on Monday the prestigious Combat Medical Badge.
“I don’t see the badge as an award, but as a remembrance to those [U.S. soldiers] who died,” said Spc. Claudia Kannel, 24, of Milwaukee.
Kannel and the other recipients are assigned to Company C, 501st Forward Support Battalion, Friedberg, Germany. The unit provides support to soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
Up until 1991, eligibility for the award was reserved for field medics accompanying infantrymen into battle. The regulation was amended that year for Operation Desert Storm medics serving with armor and cavalry ground units.
Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, now deputy commander of the 1st Armored Division, was injured in that war. Hertling saw firsthand how crucial — and exposed — forward medical units are. So he and other members of the division asked the Army if it would further expand the eligibility requirements to include medics providing medical care while in a danger zone.
“I told you we would do it,” Hertling said as he patted Sgt. Rosalind Matthews on the right shoulder as she and 19 others stood in formation.
Hertling was the featured speaker at Monday’s award ceremony, which was attended by dozens of 1st AD soldiers.
“Medics are some of the most courageous soldiers we have,” Hertling said in an interview afterward.
For Matthews, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the aid station at Camp Provider Forward Operating Base, the badge is validation for all of the hard work, long hours and strain she and her medics have endured during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Aside from working in the aid station, the medics also join units on patrols and raids.
“All of us have been under fire,” said Matthews, 28, of Anniston, Ala. Kannel and Hertling remember a conversation the two of them had on Sept. 14, when Hertling was touring the aid station and visiting with wounded soldiers. He promised Kannel he would work to get the regulation changed to include medics like her.
That pledge and its fulfillment seemed to impress her as much as the silver badge now pinned to her uniform.
“He’s a general, but he treats us like people,” Kannel said.
Kannel also paid tribute to the soldiers. She’s seen a couple of her friends die and others get shot up. At times last year, she said, it was rare not to have a wounded soldier in the aid station. It hasn’t been easy, she noted, for anyone serving in Iraq.
Kannel planned to call home with the news Monday night. She’s especially excited about telling her grandfather, Wayne Kannel, a World War II medic. He’s got his Combat Medical Badge, and now she’s got hers.
“He’s going to be so proud,” Kannel said. “You know how grandpas are.”