Vt. Guard unit earns rare honor
By Neal P. Goswami
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | January 13,2014
NEAL GOSWAMI / STAFF PHOTO
Members of the Vermont Army National Guard received the Valorous Unit Award during a ceremony Sunday.
NORTHFIELD — Members of the Vermont Army National Guard received the prestigious Valorous Unit Award on Sunday for their service in Afghanistan in 2010.
The Vermont Guard was mobilized in 2009 and was later deployed to Paktia Province in Afghanistan, its largest deployment since World War II. The mission was the first time the Mountain Battalion was deployed as an entire unit.
On Sunday, the 600 Guard members were honored for their accomplishments as a unit at Norwich University’s Shapiro Field House. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, Sen. Bernard Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch were all on hand for the ceremony, for which the troops stood in formation.
According to the Army, the unit received the honor for “extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy” between April and August of 2010. The unit award is on par with the Silver Star for individual soldiers, according to a Vermont Army National Guard spokesman, and is a rare recognition for National Guard units.
The Mountain unit, created in 1982 to resurrect the Army’s mountain warfare capability, received about 600 combat awards and 26 Purple Heart awards during the deployment. Two soldiers from the unit were killed in action.
“I want to congratulate all of you, not only for your service to our country, but for the very, very impressive and important award that you have received this morning,” Sanders said. “That is no small thing.”
During its deployment, the unit patrolled about 34 kilometers of the border with Pakistan and gained control of areas once controlled by insurgents, according to Brigadier Gen. Brian Carpenter, commander of the Vermont troops. The group also improved safety and security for a national election. The province was the only one that did not suffer a civilian casualty during the election.
“What an honor it is for each and every one of us to be here to celebrate the honor, extraordinary honor, the unit has received,” Welch said. “Every Vermonter is mighty proud of all that you did.”
Shumlin, meanwhile, noted the unit was one of the few National Guard units to be deployed.
“When you look at the mission you were assigned, and the extraordinary grace and efficiency and skill that you brought, I know that I speak for all of us when I say that it’s not just you that we’re incredibly proud of, it’s also your families,” Shumlin said.
Specialist Michael J. Mulcahy, a combat medic, was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor for his heroics on Aug. 22, 2010, following an enemy ambush that claimed the lives of two soldiers. Despite arms fire, grenades and machine gun fire, Mulcahy “led the way uphill through accurate heavy volumes of enemy fire” to treat casualties, according to Carpenter.
Mulcahy treated casualties “never seeking cover and continuously exposing himself to enemy fire while he prepared all casualties for transport to be evaluated,” according to Carpenter.
Welch said the unit has served as an example for the entire country.
“This unit’s citation is all about what it takes for a country to be strong. It’s not just the individuals, it’s the individuals working together to share a common purpose. You did this under the most extraordinary, difficult circumstances on the Afghan border,” he said.