By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD – Fourteen soldiers and three civilians were welcomed back from a six-month deployment with Forward Operational Assessment Team XI.

The soldiers and civilians left Fort Hood in September and embedded with units in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan to assess, test and evaluate Army systems and equipment. They returned March 15.

Forward operational assessments teams have deployed since November 2003 as part of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and West Fort Hood-based U.S. Operational Test Command.

Team XI had people at Kuwait's Camp Arifjan; Iraq's Camp Speicher, Camp Victory and Camp Liberty; and Afghanistan's Bagram Air Field.

"Why do we send this team into a hostile operating environment?" asked Maj. Gen. Roger Nadeau, ATEC commander. "The answer is simple, it makes a difference to soldiers."

Team members validated equipment already tested in the United States and ensured it met soldiers' needs in combat, he added.

"The focus is on the soldier and what we need to do for the soldier," the general said. "This team does that for our soldiers."

During Thursday's ceremony, team members were given medals and awards. They are as follows:

Meritorious Service Medal: Col. Conrad Christman, team commander, and Master Sgt. Daniel Dilissio, team noncommissioned officer in charge.

Bronze Star Medal: Lt. Col. John Sisk and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Bertuca.

Meritorious Service Medal: Lt. Col. Frederick Corbin, Lt. Col. Edwin Mott, Maj. Christopher Anderson, Maj. Thomas Bentzel, Maj. Jesse Smith, Maj. Kenneth Welch, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Brown, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Jacobs, Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Walls and Staff Sgt. Denise Lee.

Superior Civilian Service Award: Jason Jack.

Commander's Award for Public Service: Joseph Twomey.

Sisk and Walls were also given the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service award.

Jack and 11 other former civilian team members were also awarded the Global War on Terrorism Medal.

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