Life in the Army for Warrior Transition Brigade cadre, Staff Sgt. Roger Pates, has always been about the Abrams. It didn’t matter if it was a 60-ton or a 70-ton tank, he just wanted to be its master.
On Aug. 1, surrounded by more than 400 warriors from his former unit, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, the master gunner achieved the pinnacle of his Army career: knighthood and membership into the prestigious Order of St. George.
Lt. Col. Arthur Sellers, battalion commander, “knighted” the kneeling Pates with two saber taps on the shoulders and presented the order’s black medallion that is given to “deserving junior officers and enlisted tankers and cavalrymen who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and technical competence.”
The order, which was established in 1986 by the United States Armor Association, recognizes “the very best tankers and cavalrymen among its members.” Its origins date back to a 12th Century Italian legend that depicts St. George slaying a dragon in exchange for the community embracing Christianity.
For Pates, who now works with brigade operations, the opportunity to get knighted was the driving force behind his decision to enlist and go “armor” three months after his 1993 high school graduation.
“I just thought that being knighted was the coolest thing I had ever heard about,” said the Kansas native, who first learned about the order from an Army friend. “Ever since I was a kid, too, I wanted to drive tanks, so this just made sense to me.”
Being knighted also was the fifth and final career goal Pates had set for himself when he enlisted.
“I wanted to make rank, be a tank commander, make master gunner, become a knight, and..,” said Pates, hesitating a bit, “Go to war.”
In 2003. Pates got his wish for war when his unit was one of the first to invade Iraq.
“I was a little nervous at first, because I’m in a bomb on wheels,” the 37-year-old Pates said. “But it was also pretty awesome because I’m in a practically indestructible war machine.”
Pates credits Army training with preparing him for the fight.
“It was exactly like our Army training, only this time it was for real,” said Pates, who deployed three times to Iraq.