Tuesday's blog post regarding the 2,600-member 1st Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division's (1-34th BCT) continued role in Iraq and Kuwait featured quotes from members of Charlie Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion ("CAB"), 194th Armor Regiment (1-194th CAB), headquartered in Sauk Centre, Minn. The unit is anticipated to return to Minnesota in summer 2012.
Army Spc. Zachary K. Mangas originally collected those quotes as part of a story regarding the unit's patching ceremony, in which Charlie Company soldiers received an additional 34th Infantry Division "Red Bull" patch to represent their deployment. These "shoulder-sleeve insignia, former wartime service" (S.S.I.F.W.T.S.) emblems are usually described as "combat patches." The award is much deserved: As of October 1, the company has traveled more than 100,000 miles in Iraq and has escorted more than 4,000 trucks safely through that country.
Soldiers who wear a Red Bull patch on both the left (unit of assignment) and right (combat patch) sleeves are occasionally referred to as wearing the "steak sandwich" or the "doub-bull."
Just as notable as the patch ceremony, however, was where it took place: At the top of the Ziggurat of Ur, a 100-foot-high pyramid first built in the 21st century B.C.E. The site is located near Nasiriyah, Iraq. Some religious traditions hold that Abraham once lived in the region.
According to Mangas' story, the location was kept secret from the Red Bull soldiers until the last minute, if not the last mile:
“It was a normal mission for us,” said Spc. Luke A. Peterson, an armor crewman from Duluth, Minn. “We had been on the road escorting trucks for close to nine hours and were ready to take showers and get some sleep when word came down that our sergeant major worked it out with the Iraqi police to let us receive our patches on top of the ziggurat.”
“It’s pretty surreal to think of it this way—something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” said Andrew L. Schmaltz, an infantryman from Big Lake, Minn. “Most guys my age are in college or working back home. Here I am at the birthplace of man, receiving my combat patch.”
Again according to Mangas, more than half of Charlie Company previously deployed to a combat zone. During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, the Minnesota National Guard's 1-34th BCT deployed for a record-breaking 16 months.
“It’s great to see my guys who have never deployed before receive their combat patch after spending so much time training and running missions,” said Sgt. Aaron J. McGowan. “People recognize the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division patch throughout the whole theatre of operations because of what we accomplished during Operation Iraqi Freedom and now Operation New Dawn. It’s something I’ll always carry on my right shoulder for the rest of my military career. I’m happy to see more soldiers patched into the tradition.”