V is for Valor

I have on occasion eaten my own words, and I am fine with that fact. Every one of us gets humbled at some point in time in our lives (sometimes over and over) and these moments hopefully make us better individuals. I talk a lot of smack against 3rd ACR, specifically the leadership of the Regiment, because they seemed hard-headed when we tried to impart knowledge to them as they assumed Tal’Afar from us. I have no real ill will or malice towards them; the soldiers and cavalry troopers of the Regiment fought along side me and were a disciplined, professional bunch. But every now and again you tend to eat your words, and today I am eating some of my own words.

Not all, but some.

In a random turn of events, while looking up some information pertaining to our deployment to Baghdad for The Surge, I happened onto a document entitled “U.S. Army Permanent Orders 049-10.” These orders were issued to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, but specifically also listed Headquarters, Archer, Blackjack, Charger, and Diablo Troops, 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry. [for those not aware, Charger Troop was where I did my platoon leader time in Tal’Afar, Mosul, etc.]

P.O. 049-10 announces the awarding of the Valorous Unit Award (or, VUA); that is the second highest unit award that can be bestowed on an Army unit, and is essentially the group equivalent of the Silver Star [which is awarded to individuals, and is this nation’s third highest award for valor]. Granted, the Silver Star is awarded for a single act of extreme heroism, but the VUA is awarded for the collective acts of valor and heroism across a group – to me this is still a noble achievement.

U.S. Army Human Resources Command cites criteria for award as, “the unit must have performed with marked distinction under difficult and hazardous conditions in accomplishing its mission so as to set it apart from the other units participating in the same conflict. The degree of heroism required is the same as that which would warrant award of the Silver Star to an individual.” Again, to me- still a noble achievement. We had earned the VUA as part of the Lancer Brigade, for the combat operations in support of the Iraqi Provincial elections 5 January to 15 February, 2005. I was always proud to have been a piece of that operation, but it is this new set of orders that really took me by surprise.

Excerpt from Permanent Orders 049-10:

“For extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. During the period 18 May 2005 to 23 September 2005…3d Armored Cavalry and its subordinate units displayed extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in and around western Nineveh Province, Iraq including Tal Afar. The unit deployed to an austere area of operations with a well-entrenched insurgent network…and challenged the enemy’s safe haven centered in Tal Afar. During fighting from 18 May to 29 August, the regiment was responsible for 200 confirmed anti-Iraqi forces killed in action and the capture of over 300 more. The unit also greatly affected the enemy’s ability to move fighters and weapons across the Iraq-Syrian border through aggressive combined reconnaissance operations…The unit’s efforts severely degraded the insurgency threat in Northern Iraq and across the country, allowing for the reconstruction of Tal Afar…”

There it is in black and white, size 12 font, Times New Roman. When I found these orders, I was literally stunned. This describes the various combined-arms engagements we had in Tal’Afar, some with 3rd ACR, as well as literally calls out the effects from Operation ERDANUS, specifically. When I read this, and recognized that the men and I had been awarded a second Valorous Unit Award, I was without words. The meaning behind that, to me, is indescribable. Realize that at the time, Operation ERDANUS was not really recognized; there were no official awards given for the heroism and bravery, and many of the atypical combat scenarios we experienced in Tal’Afar also were largely unrecognized.

We got a few awards for achievement given to truly deserving soldiers for Op ERDANUS but it was because I remembered to do the paperwork after we had moved back to Mosul, and even when we then moved to Rawah. I had also got several of my own soldiers the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, again very well deserved, for heroic actions in Tal’Afar. For that combat deployment in OIF III, I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, for what it’s worth (my ‘end of tour’ award). The whole thing had really left me jaded and slightly bitter with the Army awards system (as well as with 3rd ACR who always had received the credit for ‘conquering’ Tal’Afar). But I won’t get into my embittered status with the Army awards system here and now.

To now realize that, in 2010, we were awarded a prestigious unit award for being part of something truly monumental and defining (in 2005) was really moving for me. And though I still have qualms over how some of the senior leadership of 3rd ACR acted, and their overall attitude, I see now that someone in the Regiment (and in the bigger Army) was able to see the efforts of 2-14 Cav in relation to all of that – and then ensure that we were officially recognized. I wish I had learned about this in 2010, when I was still in the Army National Guard, but I am glad to have found out now, as opposed to never.

So, I eat some of my words – I earned a 3rd ACR combat patch for our time with them in Tal’Afar, but I never wore it; I was proud to be in the 25th and that was what I always wore (and always will, or would if I were still in). The 25th is where I really cut my teeth, and if I had worn a 3rd ACR patch, it would have been out of spite. I retract my mental decision calculus, and now state that I never would have worn one out of respect for the Regiment.

3rd ACR – you guys aren’t so bad.  Hell, you’re pretty OK in my book.


3rd ACR proudly rolling past after exiting FOB Sykes, late April 2005

About anotherwarriorpoet

Mathew Bocian served as a Captain in the United States Army with the Stryker Brigade and was deployed to Mosul and Tal'Afar in 2004 - 2005, and to Baghdad for The Surge in 2007 - 2008. He left the Army in 2012 and now uses his poetry as a way to heal from the traumas of war, while attempting to express to readers the realities of war. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and holds a master's from the Graduate School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
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4 Responses to V is for Valor

  1. Bryan Shrank says:

    Well said Matt. I had the same reaction when I first found out. Rattlesnake!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kevin Beagle says:

    As I close out my 20+ yr career, that operation, during that deployment, with the remarkable Rattlesnake Team remains one of my fondest memories. Great words. Beagle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Tal’Afar, H.R. McMaster, and the 2-14 / 3rd ACR story | The Ghosts of Tal'Afar

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