Special Forces GIs receive medals for their Iraq duty
BÖBLINGEN, Germany — After years of training, it’s good to see what you’ve got.
During their eight-month tour, soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group got shot at, mortared and bombed. They got their share of enemy fighters, too, while operating in Anbar province, and trained up Iraqi troops to defend Baghdad.
On Friday, the soldiers got their medals. About 45 soldiers received the awards during a short ceremony at the Panzer Casern gymnasium as a small contingent of family and friends looked on.
Some got Bronze Stars, while others got Army Commendation Medals or Combat Action Badges.
The tour in Iraq was the company’s first but likely won’t be its last. To go through a tour and succeed at missions was validation that the soldiers’ years of training paid off, according to Maj. Gen. Thomas Csrnko, commander of U.S. Special Operation Command Europe.
“It’s hard to describe how you come out on the other end,” Csrnko said “There’s a level of maturing, a level of growth that’s hard to put into words.”
But some tried.
“One of the best things that Special Forces brings to the table is that we get to interact with the local people,” said Andrew, a captain who commanded Operational Detachment Alpha 012, and by Special Forces custom, declined to give his last name. “It’s a cliché to say we try to win the hearts and minds, but it’s really true.
“You’ve got to earn the trust of the local people so they’ll tell you what you need to know.”
The Special Forces soldiers said they worked closely with Marines and regular Army soldiers. On one occasion in Haditha, ODA 014 was working with a Marine unit. The units were about a mile apart, and both got ambushed but managed to fight their way out.
After taking out the enemy fighters, the ODA pushed into the hide-out of their primary target, an insurgent leader who had bragged that the city was ringed and that there was no chance he could be captured, according to Hugo, a chief warrant officer 2 and the ODA’s assistant commander.
“He was a pretty humble guy when we pulled him out,” Hugo said.
After undertaking operations in Anbar province, the company moved to Baghdad where they trained Iraqi soldiers. Those brigades are now standing alone and holding their ground, the soldiers said.
And when the company pulled out of Iraq in June, the soldiers were happy they didn’t lose a single soldier. But some sounded like they were sorry to leave.
“Once you’re in the game playing, you want to keep playing,” said Oscar, a master sergeant and team sergeant for ODA 011. “You want to see closure but you obviously can’t. It’s going to take a long time.”