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Second Quarter 2005

NCO Awarded War’s Highest Honor

The Medal of Honor is awarded so sparingly that only three have been given for actions since the Vietnam War: two in Somalia in 1993, and now to SFC Paul Ray Smith for actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

“Since World War II, more than half of those. . .awarded this medal gave their lives in the action that earned it,” President George W. Bush said. “Sergeant Paul Smith belongs to this select group.” Bush presented the medal to Smith’s 11-year-old son, David, in a White House ceremony attended by Smith’s widow, Birgit; 18-year-old daughter, Jessica; and his parents along with his commander and members of his unit, 11th Engineer Battalion, Task Force 2-7, 3d Infantry Division. The 4 April ceremony came two years to the day after Smith’s heroic stand near Baghdad.

A combat engineer who had served in the Persian Gulf War, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, Smith was leading a troop of about three dozen men to clean a small courtyard next to a watchtower about a mile from the Baghdad airport to use as a holding area for enemy prisoners.

The troop was surprised by a force of about 100 Republican Guard members, some of whom fired on the Americans from the watchtower. Smith rallied a defense using grenades, an antitank missile launcher and individual weapons while wounded soldiers were evacuated. He took control of a 50-calibre machine gun in an exposed location and returned fire until he was fatally wounded. His actions are credited with saving the lives of more than 100 Soldiers, preventing the enemy from overtaking his unit’s position, and protecting his task force’s flank.

“Like every one of the men and women in uniform who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sergeant Paul Smith was a volunteer,” Bush said. “We thank his family for the father, husband, son and brother who can never be replaced. We recall with appreciation the fellow soldiers whose lives he saved, and the many more he inspired. And we express our gratitude for a new generation of Americans, every bit as selfless and dedicated to liberty as any that has gone on before—a dedication exemplified by the sacrifice and valor of SFC Paul Ray Smith.”

New Combat Action Badge

The Army unveiled its new Combat Action Badge in May to be given non-infantry Soldiers who have engaged in combat. The new badge features a bayonet and grenade crossing an elliptical oak wreath.

Approved May 4, the Combat Action Badge may be awarded to any soldier regardless of their military occupation or specialty “performing assigned duties in an area where hostile fire pay and imminent danger pay is authorized, who is personally present and actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy,” according to an official statement on eligibility. (From the Army Times.)

Law Bans Lighters on Aircraft

The new law forbidding airline passengers from carrying lighters on board aircraft also applies to military and civilian passengers on commercially chartered U.S. military overseas flights, said Army Lt. Col. Scott Ross, a spokesman with U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

President Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 on 17 December 2004 mandating that butane lighters be added to the list of items prohibited on aircraft that depart from or land at U.S. commercial airports.

The law, which went into effect April 14, applies to “anything that produces a flame,” including Zippo brand and other lighters, said Transportation Security Administration officials. However, aircraft passengers may still carry up to four books of matches. The law also bans lighters from being placed in both carry-on luggage and cargo baggage. (From American Forces Press Service.)

Changes in SGLI

The $82 billion supplemental legislation signed into law by President Bush May 11 increases maximum Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage to $400,000 and provides payouts of up to $100,000 for service members with traumatic injuries,

The increased SGLI coverage will take effect 1 September, and the “traumatic SGLI” benefit 1 December. said Stephen Wurtz, Veterans Administration (VA) deputy assistant director for insurance. Both benefits will be retroactive to 7 October 2001.
Traumatic SGLI benefits will cover troops who have lost limbs, eyesight or speech or received other traumatic injuries during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. The benefit does not apply to servicemembers suffering from disease.

The traumatic SGLI benefit will be rolled into the basic SGLI program and likely cost about $1 a month, Wurtz said. Troops opting for maximum SGLI coverage— $400,000 vs. the current $250,000—will see their monthly premiums increase from $16.25 to $26, Wurtz said, based on the rate of 6.5 cents per $1,000 of insurance coverage. SGLI coverage is currently available in $10,000 increments, but as of Sept. 1, the increments will increase to $50,000.

Though the coverage will be retroactive, servicemembers will not be charged retroactive payments.

The legislation also requires that married troops get their spouse’s approval to purchase less than the full amount of SGLI coverage. For unmarried members notice will be provided to the designated beneficiary when the member purchases less than the maximum coverage.

The traumatic SGLI benefit is designed to help families leave their homes and jobs to be with the servicemember during recovery. “These families incur a lot of expenses, and this is designed to help them financially,” Wurtz said.

Regulators are working out the program’s details, and more action is required of Congress, too. The SGLI changes are in the supplemental legislation that funds operations only through Sept. 30, just 30 days after the new SGLI limit takes effect and two months before the traumatic SGLI benefit begins. Wurtz said the VA is confident Congress will resolve this issue before any lapse in coverage occurs. (From American Forces Press Service.)

Ten-Miler Reaches 10,000

Registrations for the 21st Annual Army Ten-Miler have been pouring in at a rapid pace. As of 2 June, registration for the 2 October run had reached 10,000, halfway to the 20,000 cap. Race officials from the U S. Military District of Washington, the Army command that stages and produces the run, say the race will be closed once the cap is reached and encourage anyone who wishes to participate to sign up soon at That Website also has information pertaining to race weekend activities, including packet pickup, the race Expo, Geico Pasta Dinner and the Youth Fun Runs.

This year’s race starts at the Pentagon at 8 a.m. that Sunday, the day before the opening session of the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition at the Washington Convention Center. AUSA, along with BearingPoint, is one of the race’s lead sponsors. For more information on AUSA’s Annual Meeting and Exposition visit AUSA’s web site. The AUSA point of contact for the Ten-Miler, Pete Murphy, may be reached via telephone at 1-800-336-4570 Ext. 209 or e-mail at

Military Tops in Public Trust

The American public has more confidence in the military than in any other institution, according to a June Gallup poll in which almost three-fourths of respondents have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military.

The poll conducted in May involved telephone interviews with a randomly selected sample of 1,004 people 18 and older, Gallup officials said. Of those surveyed, 42 percent expressed “a great deal” of confidence in the military and 32 percent “quite a lot” of confidence while 18 percent said they have “some” confidence, 7 percent “very little” and 1 percent, “none.”

Public confidence in the military has remained consistently high following the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001, Gallup officials said. The 2002 survey indicated a 79 percent high-confidence rate in the military in 2002 (a 13 percent increase over the previous year), an 82 percent rate in 2003, and a 75 percent rate in 2004.

This year’s 74 percent confidence level for the military exceeded that of all 15 institutions included in the survey. Police ranked second as 63 percent expressed“a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in them. Organized religion rated third with 53 percent, and banks rated 49 percent. Health maintenance organizations bottomed out the list as just 17 percent of responders expressing high confidence in them. (From American Forces Press Service.)

‘Gun Trucks’ Save Lives In Iraq

New 5-ton armored “gun trucks” are providing U.S. troops effective protection against insurgents’ improvised explosive devices and small-arms fire, Steven J. DeTeresa, an engineer from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., told members of the House Armed Services Committee in May. Currently, 31 5-ton gun trucks are serving in Iraq.

DeTeresa said the Army used gun trucks during the Vietnam War. The Livermore lab and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have worked since December 2003 to jointly develop a modern version of the gun truck concept. Armed with .50-caliber machine guns, the truck, heavier than a Humvee, has two layers of steel armor augmented by ballistic fiberglass and can be fitted with transparent ballistic glass shields for the gunners.

In one IED attack a gun truck was damaged beyond repair, but “all the crewmembers survived with relatively minor injury,” DeTeresa said. The totaled vehicle’s armor was removed and put onto another gun truck. (From American Forces Press Service.)

Focus on Vaccinations

With the rising frequency of short-notice deployments the military has increased its focus on keeping the force vaccinated. This has meant taking a pro-active stance, said Col. John Grabenstein, Department of Defense deputy director for the Military Vaccine Agency.

DoD is making a greater effort to keep servicemembers’ shot records up-to-date by screening immunization records of Reserve and Guard troops each fall when they receive their flu shots. DoD also is conducting more research on infections and diseases troops may encounter in theater, Federal Drug Administration-approved vaccines to counter them those illnesses, and Centers for Disease Control guidelines for administering those vaccines.

The military has a long history of mandatory immunizations. When entering the military all troops receive a basic list of immunizations, and other vaccines are prescribed when troops travel to certain locations or for certain occupations. (From American Forces Press Service.)

Army to Name Top Soldiers at AUSA’s Annual Meeting

The winners of the NCO and Soldier of the Year awards will be announced at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting during its Sergeant Major of the Army Awards Luncheon. The awardees are selected from the Army-wide NCO and Soldier of the Year competition conducted in late September at Fort Lee. The awards will be presented by Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Peter J. Schoomaker and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston. This is the first year the awards will be announced during AUSA’s annual conference.

The luncheon, which will be held on 3 October from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., is open to Command Sergeant Majors, NCOs, General Officers and outstanding Soldiers. The event is free of charge, however tickets are required. Individuals interested in attending may contact AUSA’s Linda Engel by phone at 1 (800) 336 4570 ext. 690 or e-mail at

Ranger of the Year
An NCO and captain from the 4th Ranger Training Battalion at Fort Benning dominated this year’s Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning. CPT Corbett F. McCallum and SFC Gerald Nelson finished the grueling 60-hour competition with 1,352 points, well ahead of CPT Marc Messershmitt and CPT Fredrick L. Ahern, also of the 4th, who closed with 1,272.5 points. MSG James A. Moran and SFC Walter J. Zajkowski of U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) took third with 1,218.5 points.

McCallum finished third in last year’s competition and immediately determined to try again this year. “Last year my partner and I tried to take it easy on the first day to save ourselves for the road march that first night,” McCallum said. “But we fell behind because of that. This year, we went hard the first day and tried to get all of the points we could before the road march.”

The 21-mile road march knocked 11 of 23 teams out of the competition; a 12th team dropped out during the next day’s land-navigation event. That left 11 teams to finish, which is in line with the competition’s historical attrition rate of 60 percent. The three-day endurance test comprises several physical and mental tasks with little rest in between. The test sequence, which changes every year, is not revealed until teams arrive at the test site.

While McCallum and Nelson stayed near the lead from the start, they pulled well ahead of the field with their performance in the 12-hour land-navigation competition on day two. Ironically, the team they beat, Messershmitt and Ahern, who won in 2000, helped train McCallum and Nelson for this year’s competition. “We’re all brothers out here,” Nelson said. (From Columbia Ledger-Enquirer and Fort Benning Public Affairs.)

Surgeons General Applaud Care

Military surgeons general thanked members of the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee for their role in advancing military medicine.

The surgeons general were testifying in May before the subcommittee on the defense health program. At $18.9 billion, the program’s fiscal 2006 budget is an 8.9 percent increase over the previous year’s.

“Each dollar is an investment in military readiness,” Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley said. “In (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and (Operation Enduring Freedom), that investment has paid enormous dividends.”

Improvements to battlefield medicine have reduced the number of servicemembers who did not survive their injuries to less than 10 percent, a significant improvement over Operation Desert Storm, during which about 22 percent of injured servicemembers did not survive.

“This improved survivability is due to superior training of our combat medics, leveraging technology to provide resuscitative surgical care far forward on the battlefield, the superb efforts of the Air Force’s critical care and medical evacuation teams, and the advanced research and state-of-the art care available at our medical centers,” Kiley said. (From American Forces Press Service.)

NCO Notes
Principles of War
by SFC Adrian Flores

In March of 2003, I had the opportunity to participate in the iberation of the country of Iraq. At that point in my life, I had been in the U.S. Army for 12 years. As an NCO, my training was at its utmost and my preparedness for what was to come was at its best. The Army had done a good job making, first, a Soldier and, later, a leader. I did not hesitate at the job at hand. I was ready, not to die for my country, but to fight for the country I had been ordered to fight for.

The rigors of war were demanding for all involved. We worked 14 to 16 hour days directly in the fight or in support of that fight. It was truly an amazing feat. It sucked every step of the way.

If you asked me if I would do it again, I would truly have to say, “Yes.” If the result and the feeling afterward could also be repeated, if I could see those faces of the free, if I could hear the laughter of the liberated, even if I could see the signs of those that protested us, I would do it again to give those people what we at times take for granted: freedom!

In 20 days we advanced, conquered and liberated a country, a country that did not understand what liberation or freedom was, a country that for 30-plus years lived under a tyranny.

With the liberation being concluded, people began to ask, “Why are we still over there? Are those people free? Why are our Soldiers still dying over there? Has war changed? Is this a new kind of war? Have the principles of war changed? Do the principles even remain valid?”

Hell, those are all good questions, but those questions are being asked a little too prematurely. I have seen the faces of those who, for the first time in their lives, are free. They truly do not know what to do with this new freedom. These people do not even know what freedom is. They have never even had the opportunity to imagine what freedom is. When the question is asked, “Is this a new kind of war?” the answer is definitely no.

We as Americans might not remember the awkwardness of newfound freedom. After we won the War of Independence, I suspect there were two loud, deep breaths: “Wow! We won!” and, very quickly after that, “Wow! We won. Now what?”

That second deep breath is where the Iraqi people currently find themselves. They are at a turning point in their long history. They are at a crossroads, trying to figure out what is next. So, when people ask if the principles of war have changed, the answer again emphatically is no.

The principles remain the same as when we fought for our independence. They are the principles that have governed every war in which Americans have shed blood. They are the same principles for which Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice throughout history, from the American Revolution to the Global War on Terror. American Soldiers have always and will always be freedom fighters. We are the ultimate freedom fighters. We ask for nothing. We just execute. So, when people ask if the principles remain valid, the answer, of course, is yes.

There has been no war, there has been no death, and there has been no situation in which an American Soldier has not engaged an enemy for a valid principle. We Soldiers, we true American Soldiers, do not question nor dare we ask if this is a new kind of war or if the principles have changed, or even if they are valid. To be honest, I do not think we care about those things, and not because we are blind or apathetic. We do not care because through our veins runs the blood of those first Soldiers who stood up against those who suppressed freedom. Through our minds run those memories of those who have sacrificed. Through our eyes we see what freedom brings to those who do not have it. War has not changed, at least not for those of us who fight them.

SFC Flores is a 96H Common Ground Station Instructor with the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Send your observations on serving in the Army to NCO Notes, AUSA, 2425 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201 or e-mail to


NCO Update is published quarterly by the AUSA Institute of Land Warfare to help Army non-commissioned officers keep up to date on matters affecting the military profession and to better inform their soldiers. Reproduction is encouraged.

Randy M. Yasenchak, Editor
CSM (Ret.) Jimmie Spencer, Director,
NCO and Soldier Programs
2425 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201-3385
Phone 800-336-4570, ext. 632, or 703-907-2632
Fax 703-236-2929