Saturday, June 09, 2007

Golden Dragon Soldiers awarded Silver Star, Soldier’s Medal

Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO

PATROL BASE DRAGON, Iraq – The Silver Star is the fourth highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. It may be awarded to any person distinguishing himself for extraordinary heroism.
The Solder’s Medal is a military award of the U.S. Army that was introduced by law passed by the U.S. Congress on June 2, 1926, and may be awarded to any person distinguishing himself for an act of heroism not involving actual conflict with the enemy. Often, the medal is awarded to Soldiers who risk their lives to save others.
Two Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., received such awards during a ceremony at Patrol Base Dragon, Iraq June 8.
Master Sgt. Eric Gagne, a native of Francestown, N.H., who serves as the reconnaissance platoon sergeant for 2-14, was awarded the Silver Star for distinguishing himself for exceptionally heroic conduct. He has been credited for capturing several improvised explosive device cells, IED caches, weapons and terrorists involved in hostile acts against Coalition and Iraqi forces.
Gagne led the reconnaissance platoon on countless patrols to better seek out and destroy local IED cells. In addition, Gagne captured an IED triggerman and performed other missions resulting in the detention of terrorists throughout the Golden Dragon’s area of operations.
Gagne was also commended for his attention to detail and ability to react to any situation. For instance Gagne, while waiting in ambush, spotted an IED triggerman attempting to move into position to detonate an IED. Moments before springing the ambush, Gagne noticed the triggerman had a small child with him. Instead of using lethal force against the triggerman, Gagne chose to leap out at the terrorist and tackle him, rather than risk the life of the child.
After receiving the award for his many acts of gallantry Gagne shared some thoughts of his own.
“I look at this award as more what the platoon has accomplished. I think the entire platoon takes ownership of this,” Gagne said after receiving the medal.
The former ranger instructor noted that he is just performing standard infantry skills
“We get out and walk,” he said. “So far the old school light infantry tactics are working. It is all basic Ranger School, Field Manual 7-8 tactics.”
Gagne’s platoon has been awarded 12 valorous awards during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Skirko, a native of Kemp, Texas, who serves as a fire support officer with 2-14, was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for distinguishing himself by rescuing Soldiers from a Humvee that had rolled over in a canal. While Skirko was on a search-and-attack mission in the Shakriyah Triangle, Iraq, he heard that a vehicle in his patrol had flipped over in a canal.
Upon arriving at the site, Skirko threw off his helmet and body armor and submerged himself into the rancid water to open the door to free the trapped Soldiers. After forcing open the re-enforced armor door to the Humvee he crawled into the vehicle and pulled the Soldiers out.
“The task is difficult to do with a Humvee simply parked on the street,” said Lt. Col. John Valledor, the 2-14 commander and native of Weehawken, N.J. “But opening the doors under five feet of muddy water is nearly impossible. Sgt. Skirko, guided by a desire to save his fellow Soldiers, found the strength to, not only pry the doors open, but to remove all the crew members.”
Eleven other Soldiers from 2-14 received valorous awards at the ceremony. Valledor commented about the Soldiers of 2-14 receiving such prestigious awards.
“I am extremely proud of these men. Their actions personify selfless service and valor,” Valledor said of the awardees. “It is our desire that by highlighting the great deeds of these brave men their actions will inspire their fellow Soldiers to do the same.” “Our fight here is far from over and I have no doubt that there will be more ceremonies like this one in the weeks to come,” Valledor added. “Our battalion has a lot of history in front of it … If the actions of these great men are any indicator, the final accounting of our tour here will be simply inspiring. Golden Dragons!”

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