By Capt. John Hutka
Texas National Guard public affairs
Camp Victory, Iraq — In a memorable ceremony on Christmas Day, soldiers of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Multinational Division-Baghdad, donned their shoulder sleeve insignia — former war-time service at Camp Victory, Iraq. The Arrowhead soldiers are now authorized to wear the historic “T” patch as their “combat patch.”
The Army combat patch has a long and storied history. Origins of the combat patch date back to World War I, when the 81st “Wildcat” Division’s soldiers affixed pieces of cloth with a figure of a wildcat on the shoulder of their sleeve following their service in Europe during The Great War. General “Black Jack” Pershing authorized them to keep the patch and encouraged other units to adopt similar patches.
Since World War II, it has been standard procedure to wear the combat patch on the right shoulder and the unit patch on the left. The intent of the patch is to recognize soldiers that have served in a combat theater of operations. Receiving the patch for the first time can be very special.
For one soldier of the Arrowhead Brigade, Sgt. 1st Class William Filyaw, it marks the second combat patch he has earned, but the first in 40 years. Filyaw earned his first combat patch with Alpha Company 127th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division during an initial tour to Vietnam in 1968. During his tour in Vietnam, he was wounded in action and earned a Purple Heart Medal.
His most recent assignment was at 36th Infantry Division Support Command as a maintenance supervisor. His deployments with the Texas National Guard include rotations to Bosnia, the Balkans and Kosovo. He has served in support of three hurricanes, two major tornadoes, and two major floods throughout Texas. Filyaw has been around long enough to see a lot.
“I’ve seen young lieutenants who are now lieutenant colonels, young specialists who are now sergeants and warrant officers and I hope that I influenced them in a positive way,” Filyaw said.
Receiving his combat patch for the first time is 21-year-old Spc. Gregory Aaron Jr. serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Originally Crandall in Kaufman County, where Aaron attended high school, he played football, tennis and ran track. After graduation, he attended Kilgore Junior College while working as a waiter. He also coached football and track while studying.
He joined the Texas National Guard in March 2007, enlisting as an human resources specialist and attending basic training and advanced individual training at Ft. Jackson, S.C.
He changed his military occupational specialty to infantry in March of 2008 and has served with the Arrowhead Brigade ever since. Aaron was motivated to join by his younger brother.
He wants his parents to be proud of him and be able to see him get out there and do his best. He also hopes to benefit from his deployment time by gaining new insights into effective leadership styles and gain valuable experience.
Aaron is considering furthering his military education and possibly even enrolling in Warrant Officer Candidate School.
“I want to lead soldiers someday,” said Aaron. “I want them to look back and say that I pushed them to succeed, and look at me the way I look at some of my leaders today.”