FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A group of Fort Riley soldiers was honored on the installation Tuesday for their accomplishments in combat.
The 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division held an awards ceremony Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at Fort Riley's Marshall Army Airfield.
The "Iron Rangers" recently returned from a year-long deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Throughout the deployment, the battalion completed over ten thousand Village Stability Operation missions in 58 remote locations across Afghanistan
On Tuesday, commanders recognized the soldiers for their bravery, giving out nearly 100 medals, including 76 Bronze Stars for Service, six Purple Hearts and six Army Commendation Medals With Valor.. Four soldiers were also awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, one received the Joint Service Commendation Medal and one received a Bronze Star with Valor.
"We supported the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command Afghanistan and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan conducting foreign internal defense in support of both those commands... We had hundreds of miles of separation between geographical elements. We covered about 100,000 square kilometers of territory. What we specialized in were village stability operations where you go in and you gain the trust of the local Afghan people and they invite you into a village to establish operations. We partnered with them and we basically raised a local security force, the Afghan local police. We trained them…and then they basically secure that village. Once they come up to speed, we stay partnered with them and adjust to another location and repeat that process. You’re connecting the government of Afghanistan down to the village level by starting at the bottom and working back up towards the district level and provincial level, trying them back in to the people at the villages," said the commander, Lieutenant Colonel James Smith.
"I have a lot of pride in these men. A lot of these soldiers that are E-5’s and E-6’s today were privates or specialists two years ago. They’ve grown a lot, a lot of maturity and they had a lot of responsibility because when you’re operating in small elements- at the team, squad and platoon level- so when you’re operating with a nine man squad and there’s no other coalition forces in an area 50-100 miles around you, you depend on yourselves and you have to be self-sustaining. These young soldiers went and did a hard mission and accomplished it superbly. They brought everyone home. We did not lose any soldiers," he added.
"I give all the credit to my guys for this unit having a successful deployment. It was an honor and privilege to serve with them and Special Operations Task Force South. We had a hard-working group of guys and got a lot accomplished in the year we were there. The Purple Heart I received for injuries I sustained in a rocket attack by a rocket attack in January. I was wounded in my ankle and hand. Luckily, the injuries weren’t more severe. The Bronze Star I received for actions while conducting combat operations with Special Operations Task Force South," said Staff Sergeant Caleb Vanvoorhis, who was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
The soldiers of 1-16 Infantry will re-enter the training cycle and prepare for future missions.