By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
The scene inside the Battle Simulation Center on Thursday resembled a cross between a concert, a comedy show, a motivational speech and a beauty pageant — Army style, of course.
There wasn’t baton twirling and bathing suits, but Action Combat Uniforms, unit flags and pumped-up soldiers who were more than happy to show troop pride.
Hundreds of soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division’s 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team gathered in an auditorium for the “Hard-Working Man” ceremony. In it, five soldiers from each of the squadron’s troops were honored for their hard work during the brigade’s recent rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
The brigade, which has orders to deploy to Iraq in November and December, spent time in the California desert in August and September.
It was some of the best pre-Iraq training Col. Ted Martin said he has seen. Martin, a 4th Infantry veteran who has already served twice in Iraq, took command of the 1st Brigade in June.
He came on board as soldiers were completing company-level lanes and counter-insurgency training. He took over during the preparation for the National Training Center visit for what will be the brigade’s third deployment to Iraq since the war began.
The brigade, along with division Headquarters, was among the first to receive its orders. The 4th Brigade Combat Team received its deployment orders Tuesday and will depart in summer 2008. The Fort Carson, Colo.-based 3rd Brigade Combat Team is set to deploy in December. The Combat Aviation Brigade and Fort Carson-based 2nd Brigade Combat Team have not received official orders, but leaders expect them to deploy in summer 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Martin said that the training at Fort Irwin prepared his soldiers well for Iraq. It replicated the kinds of scenarios they will face downrange like interaction with locals, IEDs and snipers. He said that some of the training exercises were so realistic that some soldiers had to take a knee and get themselves together after completion.
The soldiers worked every system available to them in a modular brigade combat team, taking advantage of capabilities Martin said he never had before.
Feedback from the soldiers was good, he said. The training, which included actors playing Iraqi locals, was helpful in that it taught soldiers that establishing good relationships with citizens resulted in them getting information that led to successful raids, cordon searches and weapons-cache discoveries.
Lt. Col. Troy Smith, commander of the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, was happy with his soldiers’ performances at the National Training Center, which he called an “unbelievable event for this squadron.”
“We kicked the OPFOR all over the place,” he said of the “enemy” combatants at the training center.
Troop leaders picked their highest-performing soldiers, Sgt. Jonathan Adams, Pvt. Samuel,Drennan, Spc. Jose Pujols, Pfc. Jacob Creamer and Spc. Ernesto McConnell, to be honored at Thursday’s “Hard-Working Man” ceremony.
Smith created the award in June to award an outstanding soldier nominated by leaders and chosen by he and the troop’s senior noncommissioned officer. The award is named after Brooks and Dunn hit, “Hard-Working Man,” but it’s isn’t reserved just for the squadron’s males. The first winner was a female.
The ceremony gave leaders a chance to thank the five soldiers for the hard work they did in California, Smith said.
“These are the soldiers you’re wanting to emulate,” he said of the five nominees.
Each of the soldiers were recognized onstage after they were introduced by an officer from their troop. The officers were pitchmen, getting the crowd revved up for their guy, and the soldiers responded.
Adams was the epitome of what a commander looks for in a sergeant, said an officer from Hellraiser or Headquarters Troop.
As a brand-new infantryman, Drennan came to the unit sprinting, and performed every possible job he could at Fort Irwin and performed it well, an Outlaw Troop captain said.
McConnell stood out the moment he arrived in Dragon Troop, another officer said. In a section where there were only two noncommissioned officers to fill five slots, he stepped up and filled the void.
It turned into a real competition when Capt. Dave Lombardo of Bulldog Troop and 1st Lt. James Harris of Comanche Troop stepped up to brag about their soldiers.
Pujols can do it all, Lombardo. He can march a .50-caliber machine gun up a California mountain and he can plan an operations order as a specialist, the captain said.
“This guy is the bomb and I want to be like him when I grow up,” Lombardo said as the soldiers broke into a chant for Pujols.
Harris was up next. He called Creamer the most hardworking soldier in the squadron who puts all his time and effort into improving others.
Creamer is a “squared-away, bad-ass soldier” who is “prettier than the rest of them,” Hall said, amidst hoots and hollers from a group of rowdy Comanche Troopers in the audience.
The rowdy group erupted when Creamer was announced the squadron’s “Hard-Working Man.”
“We’re a rowdy crew,” Creamer said with a mischievous smile after the ceremony.
Smith reminded Creamer that he was only as good as his last victory.
“It was nice,” he said of the honor.
There are a lot of hard-working people in the squadron and “I just try and do my best,” he added.
It’s nice to receive the recognition, the cavalry scout said, but he’ll continue to do the same job he always does.
Creamer served in the Army Reserves from 1992 to 2000 and decided to move to active duty in 2006. He had regret after Sept. 11 for getting out of the military and made a decision with his wife of 11 years to go back.
“Life’s too short to have regret,” he said.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7547