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Massachusetts Soldiers Earn Combat Infantryman Badge in Afghanistan 
By Staff Sgt. James C. Lally, Task Force Yankee Public Affairs 

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — More than 50 Massachusetts Army National Guardsmen were recognized for engaging insurgents in combat during their tour in Afghanistan at an Awards Ceremony at Camp Warrior on Bagram Airfield here July 13, 2011.

Brig. Gen John A. Hammond, commander of Task Force Yankee, 26th “Yankee” Brigade, Massachusetts Army National Guard, pinned the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) on the members of Company C, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, Massachusetts Army National Guard to personally show his appreciation for their service and sacrifice. Hammond is the commander of the unit’s higher headquarters.

"Only a small percentage of people serve in our nation’s military and an even smaller percentage of them ever serve in combat. Earning your Combat Infantryman Badge singles you out as one of them. I’m very proud to be here today to present these distinguished awards to you and I thank you for your service to the 26th ‘Yankee’ Brigade, the Massachusetts Army National Guard and our country,” said Hammond. 

A recipient of the CIB must be personally present and under hostile fire while serving in an assigned infantry or Special Forces unit actively engaged in ground combat with the enemy. 

One of the recipients was Sgt. Joshua Pickett. Explaining what the award means to him personally Pickett said, “It’s an honor to receive such an award. It singles you out as having been an infantryman who’s been in combat. It’s a distinction most people don’t get."

The proud leader of the Soldiers, Capt. Thomas Clark, commander, Company C, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, Massachusetts Army National Guard said, “It’s an honor to be with these great Soldiers. More than 80 Soldiers from this company out of 126 have been awarded their CIB. They have done everything we’ve asked and more. It means a lot that Brigadier General Hammond was here to congratulate them.”

One example of the combat the Soldiers faced was during a patrol while assigned to a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Pirkowti Kalay, Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Members of Company C were called to reinforce another infantry unit that had come under attack. The Guardsmen responded to the attack and began receiving direct small arms fire that forced their machine gunners to seek cover while they positively identified enemy fighters before firing back. The Soldiers suppressed their fire, destroyed the enemy and secured the area so they could recover vehicles that were damaged during the attack.

1st Sgt. Richard D. Sheehan, 1st. Sgt., Company C, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, Massachusetts Army National Guard was a member that patrol. Sheehan expressed his feelings toward the Soldiers of his unit saying, “It’s an honor and a privilege to serve with these Soldiers. They are the next generation of leaders.”

As a part of Task Force “Yankee” the 181st provided a secure environment so that other members of the Coalition Forces could partner with the Afghan people to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency, support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces, and facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development.