‘Iron Rangers’ receive honors for courageous acts
Army Staff Sgt. Caleb P. Vanvoorhis, infantryman, 1st Bn., 16th Inf. Regt., and a native of Duquoin, Ill., right, receives the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star from Lt. Col. James Smith, battalion commander, left, during an awards ceremony Jan. 30 at Marshall Army Airfield. Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert DeDeaux, 1ST HBCT
Story by: Sgt. Summer Woode
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The 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, honored 94 of its Soldiers during an awards ceremony Jan. 30 at Building 727.
Honorees received about 100 awards, including six Purple Hearts, 76 Bronze Stars and six Army Commendation Medals with Valor.
The Soldiers recently completed a deployment and returned home in January to loved ones and joined the rest of their brigade at Fort Riley.
Recognized as the most decorated infantry battalion in the Army, the unit, also known as the "Iron Rangers," has served in nearly every major U.S. war, beginning with the Civil War. While training for a deployment to Iraq, the unit received new orders that changed its mission to assisting with Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. James Smith, battalion commander, said his unit had only a short amount of time to prepare for its new mission.
"Our mission changed, and we only had 46 days of notice," Smith said.
Assigned to support the Combined Joint Special Task Force, the Iron Rangers were deployed to 58 remote locations across Afghanistan. They completed more than 10,000 missions as part of Village Stability Operations with the Afghan people. The operations connected the government of Afghanistan to the village level. Afghans learned the ways of their government through conducted training that educated them on their constitution.
Smith said he felt the mission was a success.
"I felt a lot of pride. We trained transition teams that expanded to 1,000. I think we accomplished the mission superbly. We brought everyone back home," he said.
With no personnel losses, the infantrymen stood in formation and were recognized with medals for their courageous and meritorious service to their nation. Some Soldiers received multiple awards.
Staff Sgt. Caleb Vanvoorhis received both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was wounded in combat Jan. 19, 2011. Being in a combat zone, Vanvoorhis said he knows his situation could have turned out differently. He shared his gratitude toward his team.
"I give all credit to the guys," he said. "We got a lot accomplished while we were out there. The memory will stick with me forever."
Smith also shared his pride in his men.
"Our Soldiers have grown into a lot of maturity," he said. "They have developed and are self-sustaining. A lot of thanks goes to the Families and Family readiness groups. The strength of our Family is the strength of our Soldiers."