FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Army yesterday honored soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division who recently returned to Schofield Barracks from Iraq. Col. Lloyd Miles, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Taylor, right-center, uncased the division's colors, while members of the color guard, including Sgt. Drew Cramer, Staff Sgt. William Miller, Sgt. Robert Kava and Sgt. Cristian Moctezuma, looked on.
With more than 5,000 soldiers looking on, Maj. Gen. Eric Olson read off the names of 14 of their comrades who weren't at Schofield Barracks yesterday to celebrate the end of the 25th Infantry Division's yearlong combat tour in Iraq.
After he read their names, Olson described them as soldiers "who gave their all for a cause that is just."
Olson paid tribute to the soldiers of the 25th Division yesterday at Schofield's Sills Field parade ground.
Before the battle flag of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team was uncovered, Olson said the Warrior brigade, led by Col. Lloyd Miles, was "responsible for the largest geographical area in Iraq," including Hawija -- one of its most dangerous cities.
Both the 2nd Brigade and the 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation, were recognized with meritorious unit citations. Two units of the 2nd Brigade also were honored with other unit citations: the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, with the valorous unit award; and the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry, with the presidential unit citation.
During its Iraqi deployment, which was extended when more U.S. forces were needed to provide security for the January national elections, the 25th Division was awarded one Distinguished Flying Cross, 626 Bronze Stars, 1,416 Army Commendation Medals, 166 Purple Hearts and 133 Air Medals.
The Iraqi deployment was the largest for the Tropic Lightning Division since retired Gen. Frederick Weyand took the same unit to Vietnam in 1965.
Olson, who will be leaving the division probably this summer after serving three years as its leader, accompanied 5,500 other Tropic Lightning soldiers to Afghanistan in March 2004. About 110 of them still are on duty there.
He said 25th Division aviators amassed 25,100 combat flying hours -- the most for a 12-month period since the Vietnam War.
Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Wilson, an OH-58D Kiowa helicopter pilot, acknowledged that he alone accounted for 1,270 of those combat flying hours -- the most in the aviation battalion, which has about 100 pilots.
"We flew 24 hours a day, nonstop," Wilson said.
But Wilson, 35, said he can only recall less than a dozen times when "I took enemy fire."
Staff Sgt. Troy Cournoyer, an 8 1/2 year Army veteran who served in Bosnia in 1999, said Iraq was a very different assignment.
"When you left the camp you were on combat operations and had to be ready to face anything, whether it be snipers or IEDs (improvised explosive devices) or RPGs (rocket propelled grenades)," said Cournoyer, 28, who will leave the 84th Engineer Battalion before the end of July for Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Gov. Linda Lingle expressed the state's appreciation.
"The toughest challenge of the Operation Iraqi Freedom remains -- to ensure the existing peace and a well-functioning society," she said.