Friday, March 11, 2005

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Jonathan Wung and Sgt. Maj. Raymond Irie pack the flag of the 411th Engineer Combat Battalion after the unit ends its year-long mission in Iraq. Holding the flag is Sgt. Ryan Agustin.

reservists get
22 Bronze Stars,
4 Purple Hearts

Bronze Star medals have been awarded to 22 Pacific Army reservists with the 411th Engineer Combat Battalion during their one-year deployment in Iraq.

Four members of the Hammerhead Battalion also were awarded Purple Heart medals for wounds received in combat.

The 600-member Fort Shafter unit is in Kuwait preparing to return to Hawaii. More than 300 of the unit's soldiers are from Hawaii, 100 from American Samoa, 70 from Alaska and 100 from 29 mainland states.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Wung, commander of the battalion, said that since arriving in Baghdad on March 23, the unit came under "many very close calls" from insurgents armed with homemade bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, rockets, grenades and small arms during more than 300 convoys it conducted in Baghdad.

"It was three of these attacks that resulted in four soldiers being awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained by the enemy during operations," Wung said in an e-mail to the Star-Bulletin.

"Two of these four soldiers, Staff Sgt. Juanita Wilson and Sgt. Aaron Carvalho of Company A in Hilo, were injured by an improvised explosive device when their convoy was attacked.

"Staff Sgt. Wilson was transferred from the 411th Engineer Battalion to another unit near Walter Reed Army Hospital where she continues physical therapy. Sgt. Carvalho was released from Tripler Army Medical Center in December 2004, and is back in Hilo and is still undergoing physical therapy," Wung wrote.

Karinne Cortes, a Family Support Group leader for the 411th, said a workshop will be held tomorrow to help spouses and family members with the adjustment process.

They will be told about benefits, availability of counseling, and legal and financial issues.

"It's sort of the reversal of what was done when the soldiers were mobilized," Cortes said. "It's to help reintegrate the families and what it means to be a couple."

She said her husband, Capt. Marvin Cortes, said earlier this week that morale was "a lot better" now that everyone is in Kuwait and "they know they will be heading home."

"They are decompressing -- realizing now how much stress they were under while they were in Baghdad. Now they can catch up on their sleep."

The 411th was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division as its primary construction battalion in central Baghdad.

"Our soldiers worked at nearly every base camp throughout central Baghdad, the International Zone (formerly the Green Zone) and south of Baghdad in North Babil," Wung said.

"The work was relentless from the first day we hit the ground in Iraq. In the course of our deployment, we completed numerous operational, force protection, logistics and quality-of-life facilities and infrastructure to support thousands of Multi-National Forces in OIF II (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and future rotations.

"We gained a reputation as the '911' for emergency construction operations in central Baghdad because our soldiers demonstrated that we could get the work done time and time again," Wung said.

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com