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Army Sgt. Paul Rumph, a soldier from Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion, is awarded the Air Force space badge by Lt. Col. Scott Geiger, the commander of the 53rd Signal Battalion, during a ceremony Thursday in a hangar on a small post near Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Army Sgt. Paul Rumph, a soldier from Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion, is awarded the Air Force space badge by Lt. Col. Scott Geiger, the commander of the 53rd Signal Battalion, during a ceremony Thursday in a hangar on a small post near Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

LANDSTUHL, Germany — A relatively new badge will probably elicit more than a few double takes and questions after 29 soldiers with a satellite communications unit were awarded the Air Force Space Badge at a ceremony Thursday.

The soldiers with Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion are now part of just 489 soldiers who can wear the Air Force badge since it was authorized for the Army in August 2006.

The futuristic-looking badge, subdued in black for wear on the Army Combat Uniform, was pinned on 26 soldiers with the company. Three other Company C soldiers earned the space badge but were unable to attend Thursday’s ceremony. The roughly 60-soldier unit is responsible for satellite communications and operates on a small post that’s home to several massive, white satellite dishes near Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

“When people come up to you and ask what that badge is — because there’s a lot of badge chasers in our little Army here — tell them what it’s about,” said Lt. Col. Scott Geiger, 53rd Signal Battalion commander. “Tell them what you had to do to get there. There’s a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of studying and a lot of sacrifice involved. It’s 12-hour shifts every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

To become eligible for the basic badge, soldiers had to complete a stand-alone course such as the satellite systems/network coordinators course and serve at least 12 months in an Army space cadre position. The 53rd Signal Battalion is one of the designated space units in the Army.

Those presented with the badge Thursday ranged in rank from private first class to staff sergeant.

Every day, lives depend on the work of the soldiers with Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion, Geiger said.

“From the President of the United States to that last soldier in the foxhole, we help them control their communications,” he said. “We make sure that they can talk.”

The person who recruited Pfc. Donald Boyd to become an Army satellite communication systems operator-maintainer had the now-retired Air Force Space and Missile Badge. Boyd said he thought it was cool but later learned that the specific badge had been retired. When soldiers became eligible for the relatively new Air Force Space Badge, unit leaders found out the badge’s standards and submitted paperwork for those eligible.

“Everybody that met the new standard was able to get the badge,” said the 24-year-old from Kankakee, Ill. “I’m very happy to get what I got.”

Stories from how soldiers explained the previous badge to others could carry over to the new badge, said Sgt. Jonathan Maxwell, one of the badge recipients Thursday.

“You’ve got ‘space shuttle door gunner,’ ... that one’s always been out there,” he said. “Nobody in the Army sees it. They are of course wondering what it is. You just let them know what it’s about and what you had to go through.”

Badge recipients

Air Force Space Badge recipients from Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion:

Pfc. Donald BoydSpc. Andrew BakerSpc. Jay HannaSpc. Brian HensleySpc. Nathaniel HousleySpc. Roy LumsdenSpc. Russell MalinskySpc. Niel MayonSpc. Pedro MezaSpc. Joshua ReisSpc. Paul SchweitzerSpc. Corey TuttleSgt. John BittnerSgt. Jesse ChildressSgt. Jeremy FranklinSgt. Brandon HaymanSgt. Martin JensenSgt. Christopher KaufmannSgt. Jonathan MaxwellSgt. Paul RumphSgt. Michael SimpsonStaff Sgt. David BlotterStaff Sgt. Matthew HagenStaff Sgt. Patrick MannStaff Sgt. Christopher MillerStaff Sgt. Corey Wilson

The following Company C soldiers earned badges but were not present Thursday:

Sgt. Ryan PetersenSgt. John VoirolCapt. Carlos Santana

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