'Dragons' receive combat patch in East Africa
About 350 U.S. Soldiers from the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, out of Fort Riley, Kan., known as the Dragon Battalion, received their combat patch during the ceremony at Camp Lemonnier, July 27, 2013.
"Today marks a unique day for many of you in this formation," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell, commanding general for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. "Some of us, and many in this formation, have had the opportunity to deploy into other combat zones and earn the coveted patch."
The general said while earning this patch is something to be proud of, it alone doesn't make anyone a better Soldier.
"Are you any different today ... than you were yesterday?" he asked. "You're not Ã? because you're still a member of the most professional fighting force Ã? our world has to offer today. You are still members of one of the finest battalions that I've had the opportunity to observe and serve with in many years."
As is customary in this ceremony, the regiment's commanding officer and sergeant major were pinned first. Then they pinned their company commanders and first sergeants, who in turn pinned the Soldiers in their units until everyone in the battalion received the patch.
All Soldiers wear their higher headquarters unit patch on their left shoulder. However, only Soldiers who deployed to a combat zone are authorized to wear a patch on their right shoulder, and one young lieutenant said this ceremony is a rite of passage.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. James Twigg, a battalion targeting officer and Knoxville, Tenn., native, is on his first combat deployment and said, despite being active duty for 14 months, this patch brings credit to his position.
"First perception goes a long way. When others see a second lieutenant, they know they are new and relatively inexperienced," Twigg said. "By the time I redeploy to Fort Riley, I will be a first lieutenant with a combat patch, meaning others will perceive me at first sight as at least having some experience in my career."
He said he is proud to be a member of the 1st Infantry Division and being a part of its rich history.
"The 'Big Red One' is a famous unit with an incredible history dating back to its creation in World War I," Twigg said. "It is currently the oldest active Division in the Army, and being able to wear the 1st Division patch for the rest of my career, even when I move to a different unit, is an honor to me."
During their time in Africa, the Dragon Battalion will be focusing on force protection, military-to-military engagements with allies in the region and leadership development in the unit, which is part of CJTF-HOA's overall mission.
With more than a month on camp, the Soldiers have worked with French and Djiboutian forces with future activities already planned.