Special Forces Company receives Valorous Unit Award

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http://news.soc.mil/releases/News%20Archive/2008/November/0811018-01.html

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (USASOC News Service, Nov. 18, 2008) – “We often pride ourselves on being the Quiet Professionals,” said Maj. Paul Pfeiffer, referring to the moniker attributed to U.S. Army Green Berets. “Occasionally, the accomplishment is so great that we step away from that mold.”

Pfeiffer, the commander of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), spoke of his unit’s service to a crowd gathered on Gabriel Field Nov. 14 during a ceremony to present Alpha Company the Valorous Unit Award.

He said it is exceptionally rare for a unit as small as a company to be awarded the VUA, but the award citation describes the unit’s success in Iraq.

From July 20 to December 1, 2004, Soldiers of Alpha Company distinguished themselves through exceptional courage under fire against enemy forces in central and southern Iraq. Through skillful execution of special operations against the Mahdi Militia and numerous insurgent groups, the company turned the tide of battle in southern Iraq. By destroying the largest enemy force there, Alpha Company contributed enormously to the liberation of An-Najaf and Al-Fallujah, setting the conditions for the first democratic election in modern Iraqi history.

The VUA is the second highest unit decoration bestowed upon a U.S. Army unit. It is considered the unit equivalent to an individual receiving the Silver Star.

“It’s a very prestigious award,” said Master Sgt. Larry DeBusk, who served as a senior medical sergeant during the 2004 tour.

Lt. Col. Dean Franks, now assigned to U.S. Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, was the company commander of Alpha Company during the 2004 tour in Iraq.

“Today’s ceremony is more about the collective accomplishment of this group of men,” Franks said.

With ODAs – Operational Detachment Alphas – spread throughout central and southern Iraq, Franks said the shift to training Iraqis to defend and secure their own land changed the dynamic in the country, building credibility for the government and setting the conditions for elections.

“Through the work of the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces], they brought together a new phase for Iraq,” Franks said.

The company of less than a hundred, with an ODA attached from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, suffered one fatality during the rotation. Twenty-seven Soldiers received valorous awards to include a Silver Star and 13 Bronze Star Medals with “V” device. Seven Purple Hearts were awarded during the rotation.

DeBusk was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device for action in August 2004, during the battle for An-Najaf.

Now a team sergeant, DeBusk said he doesn’t look at the VUA as a personal accomplishment, but as recognition for what his company and fellow Soldiers was able to achieve.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing the country [Iraq] has changed drastically from 2004 to now,” he said. DeBusk has completed five tours in Iraq, serving there every year since 2004. “They [Iraqi forces] are definitely moving in the right direction … Give them tools and resources and they’ll be successful.”

During the ceremony, 5th Group commander, Col. Chris Conner, told Soldiers, families and friends gathered that the Quiet Professionals of Special Forces do not seek public attention for their accomplishments.

“If pressed, any man in the Legion would tell you it is not recognition, glory or awards that he seeks – but the responsibility of being ready and capable and the honor of being present when needed by the man standing next to him.”

“Heroes are the ones who step up when everyone else backs down: men who are confident in their training and fellow Soldiers; men willing to sacrifice personal comfort for the greater good. That is what I see on the field today as the men of Alpha Company accept the Valorous Unit Award.”

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Col. Chris Conner (left), 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) commander, places a Valorous Unit Award streamer on the Alpha Company, 1st Battalion guidon during a ceremony Nov. 14 at Fort Campbell. (Photo by Pfc. Andrew Jacobs, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne))
 
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