Crazy Troop observes Sept. 11 with combat patch ceremonyThe soldiers of Cloquet's Crazy Troop marked the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks with a combat patch ceremony. Currently Crazy Troop is stationed in Iraq.
By: Sgt. Troy Smith/For the Pine Journal, Pine Journal
September 11, 2001, was a day that affected us all. Those past transgressions emboldened an enemy of religious fanatics to carry out the attacks of that fateful day; the images of flames, death and destruction serving to educate our nation as to horrors most Americans refused to admit even existed. A decade later, as we think back upon the day, Facebook posts, office breakrooms, and even family dinner tables remark upon where they were that day at the moment they heard about or saw the attacks unfold.
For the soldiers of Cloquet’s Crazy Troop, that conversation quickly moves to where they find themselves now today, half the world away serving in a combat zone.
“The moment I saw the second plane hit, I knew we were at war. To be here on my second deployment to Iraq during the 10th anniversary is not a surprise – as soldiers, this is what we do. Every terrorist we face over here is one less that we have to face back home,” said Sgt First Class Sean Brown of Duluth.
Brown, a veteran of the 2007 surge in Iraq in his previous deployment, is now serving as a platoon sergeant in Crazy Troop.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the soldiers of Crazy Troop joined the rest of the 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry in participating in numerous events to commemorate the day. The day began with a remembrance 5K run, something soldiers do often on their forward operating bases (FOBs) as motivation while deployed. As the race concluded, the tone turned more somber, as the numerous units stationed at this location in Kuwait joined for an official ceremony to remember the events and victims of that day. The ceremony included a memorial wreath laying and an official color guard.
While smaller in comparison to those occupying the nightly news back in the U.S., the moment was just as moving as soldiers sat under the hot desert sun, the constant desert winds of Kuwait spitting a light coat of ultrafine sand across their faces. The soldiers of Crazy Troop knew exactly where they stood in reflection of the events of that day, even though many were but young school children on the day the towers fell.
“We are here to prevent anything like that from happening again and making it safer for the people of Iraq. Two birds, one stone – what more could you ask for?” said Private First Class Shelby Disterhaupt of Sturgeon Lake. Disterhaupt was just 9 years old the day the towers fell.
As the noonday heat seared down on the Middle East, the soldiers of the 94th Cavalry crammed into an available building free of the heat and wind for the squadron’s official “Combat Patch” ceremony. The ceremony marks the moment in a soldier’s career where he or she qualifies to adorn the right sleeve of his or her military uniform with the patch of the unit they went to war with. Known formally by the Army as the “shoulder sleeve insignia for former wartime service (SSI-FWS),” it is a permanent award that signifies to all other soldiers that the wearer has deployed forward in a combat zone. In a post-9/11 environment, with such a high rate of deployments, the patch is a sought-after achievement that projects entry into a coveted “been there, done that” society within the military. For the younger soldiers in combat arms units such as Crazy Troop, it signifies that the wearer is an experienced veteran of a combat zone.
The soldiers stood in formation as the national anthem played and then listened to their leaders reflect upon the anniversary of the attacks and its significance of their current mission in support of the Global War on Terror. A select group of soldiers was recognized with awards for previous achievements that occurred prior to arriving in Kuwait, followed by the “patching” ceremony itself. “Patching” refers to the portion of the ceremony where leaders will place the combat patch onto the sleeve of their soldiers. The speed and force at which the patch is adorned is completely left for the interpretation of the leader, with several in the Cavalry choosing to use a little extra force to remind the soldiers of the impact of receiving a combat patch. Adding a little extra “slap” to the motion also reminds the soldiers of the seriousness of their trade and the price paid by many of their brothers and sisters in arms who have fallen in battle wearing the same patch as they are now receiving.
“Being patched on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 was a humbling honor for me and I hope through my service, as well as that of my fellow soldiers, we can provide our nation and fellow citizens a secure future that is free from terrorism and war,” declared Staff Sgt. Brandon Crotteau of Esko after the ceremony, when reflecting about the moment in relation to the attacks a decade ago. Crotteau is the father of two small boys, his thoughts shared by almost all American soldiers who are also loving fathers.
With the rapid pace of U.S. forces moving to pull all the military equipment out of Iraq, driving across the country on the day was even more fitting: combat soldiers conducting missions on the day the rest of the nation remembers a heinous act of war. As long as America has had combat soldiers, those soldiers have learned to embrace the difficult, exhausting and often austere environments that always seem to accompany combat operations.
While the Crazy Troop soldiers who were on mission may have lacked the formality of flags, formations and music, they nonetheless ensured they conducted their own combat patch ceremonies. The troops enjoyed their own adaptation of the ceremony, being able to enjoy the moment with those closest to them on their convoy escort team. Several of these soldiers who marked the anniversary with their combat patch ceremony are still out on mission thousands of very dangerous miles from home. Their pictures upon their safe return, along with other pictures from the combat patch ceremony, will be added to the Crazy Troop photo galleries online at www.pinejournal.com .
No matter the location, the seriousness of the anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will help each soldier of Crazy Troop always remember their combat patch ceremony as they continue to carry on the fight against the forces of evil in this global war on terror. As Thomas Paine once famously said: “If there must be trouble