Task Force Vigilant Freedom welcomed home
Story and photo by Kevin Young Staff writer
Soldiers and civilians of Task Force Vigilant Freedom, the battalion task force from 902nd Military Intelligence (MI) Group, were presented awards at a homecoming ceremony March 3.
Because the task force was made up of people from several of the group's subordinate units and returned in various stages, the ceremony was the first opportunity the group had to officially welcome the task force members home and present awards for outstanding performance to both military and civilian members.
In his keynote speech, Col. Gregg Potter, 902nd MI Group commander, said that the awards presented on Thursday were just a representative sample of the many awards presented to task force members.
He lauded their flexibility and devotion to their mission. He pointed out that the agents' contributions were directly tied to recent advances in Iraq when he said, "Your efforts and hard work came to fruition Jan. 30 when the first free elections were held in Iraq in over 50 years."
The task force drew attention from throughout the intelligence community during their deployment because of their unique mission. The attendance of Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, G2, and other distinguished guests helped to highlight the importance of the task force's mission.
The 902nd MI Group routinely works as a counter-intelligence agency, but the deployment to Iraq required a different focus.
During the task force deployment, they spent 13 months in Iraq and covered an operational area of 140,000 square kilometers (approximately one-third of Iraq).
Potter was joined by Lt. Col. Lucie Marie Stagg, task force commander, in presenting Bronze Stars to Maj. Howard Davis, 1st Sgt. James C. Whitehouse, Capt. Hubert L. Stephens, Capt. Abelardo D. Terpin, Capt. Lyle L. Hackett, Sgt. 1st Class Glenn E. Hohman, Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth N. Reynolds, Capt. Toni L. Sabo, Chief Warrant Officer Dana S. Sessions and Chief Warrant Officer Jason S. Wheeler.
The Army Commendation Medal was presented to Sgt. 1st Class Charles E. Fout, Sgt. 1st Class Richard B. McRavin, Sgt. 1st Class Harold E. Miller, Staff Sgt. Charles C. Coyle, Staff Sgt. Marcel L. Hawkins, Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Noll, Staff Sgt. James W. Richardson, Sgt. Marquis A. Adkisson, Sgt. Rodney T. Davis, Sgt. Tanya J. Grisson, Sgt. Dana C. Mitchell, Spc. Michael T. Bradle, Spc. Nathaniel T. Teagle, Spc. Timothy D. Webster and Pfc. David R. Mullens.
Several of the civilians in the task force were presented awards during the ceremony, to include the Commander's Award for Civilian Service for Donald Shiles, Brad S. Dorris, James M. Helms, Edward M. Siebold and Michael C. Cobaugh. Stephanie Lanzillotta and Kristen Morse received the Outstanding Civilian Service Award.
Maj. Tony Davis, who received a Bronze Star during the ceremony, was happy to report that he treated himself to a new motorcycle, a Harley Davidson, when he returned from the 13- month deployment to Iraq. Davis even drove his new motorcycle to the ceremony, despite the frigid winter conditions.
Davis was the task force executive officer (XO), the right-hand guy for the task force commander.
For this deployment, Davis had to take on the extra duty of "go-to guy." In this instance, his job was to assist Iraqis with problems and put them in contact with the U.S. or Iraqi official who could get them what they needed. He also routinely convoyed along Iraq's dangerous roads to make contact with Iraqi officials throughout the task force area.
Davis said he wasn't alone in convoying all over Iraq. The mission required contact with Iraqis. He said, "Unit members traveled extensively to get their jobs done."
Included with memories of Iraqis he worked with to help rebuild their country, Davis had a special personal memory to bring home.
On his last day in Iraq, he got to see his brother who was deployed with his Army unit out of Korea. The two had an overlap of six months in country, but couldn't arrange a reunion.
"He was close by, but it's not like you can just jump in your car and drive over on a day off," Davis said with a grin.
Transportation and communications presented obstacles that the two men seemingly could not overcome. Finally, on his last day in Iraq, Davis found himself at the same compound as his brother. According to Davis, the two Soldiers got to spend a couple of precious hours catching up.
For Maj. Dianna Terpin, her husband's 13-month deployment presented many challenges to her and their newborn baby.
Terpin's military duties required a lot of travel, so she frequently needed someone to care for her infant son.
But she adapted and overcame by developing a unique system of supplemental child care. She took her son on her trips and family members would either come along or join them at her temporary station to take care of him.
She thought this support network worked well for her son and said "He's already had more flights than many people take in a lifetime - 27 at last count."
After the ceremony, Potter acknowledged that the task force was being considered for a unit-level award for their outstanding achievements, but added that work remains to be done.
"Our mission will be accomplished when the Iraqi people can fully enjoy democracy and freedom," Potter said.
Col. Thomas S. Rickard
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