An estimated 600 members of the Vermont Army National Guard will be honored Sunday with a Valorous Unit Award for their bravery while fighting insurgents in Paktya province in Afghanistan in 2010.
“The 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry (Mountain) displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while conducting combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Paktya province in eastern Afghanistan,” John M. McHugh, secretary of the Army, said in an award narrative, the text of which was released Wednesday afternoon by the Vermont Guard following a request by the Burlington Free Press.
The award is the second-highest unit award given by the Army, below only the Presidential Unit Citation.
Sunday’s ceremony also will honor combat medic Sgt. Michael Mulcahy, who will receive the Bronze Star Medal for Valor for his service while stationed at Combat Outpost Herrera, the Guard announced. The award is one of the highest military honors given to an individual soldier.
Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, the Guard’s adjutant general, was part of the overall deployment before his promotion to Guard commander. He was unavailable for comment late Wednesday afternoon.
The infantry soldiers, who served in combat outposts in Gardez, Rahman Kheyl and Herrera near the Pakistan border, will receive the award during a ceremony Sunday morning at Norwich University in Northfield.
McHugh’s narrative said the exemplary conduct by the soldiers helped create a “safe and stable environment” that allowed Afghan citizens to make progress in governance, economic development and agriculture.
“The unit demonstrated the superior ability to to execute counter-insurgency operations and accomplish the mission beyond the call of duty,” McHugh’s narrative said.
“The dedication and valorous performance of the 3rd Battalion, 172 Infantry (Mountain) are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon themselves and the United States Army,” the narrative concluded.
The infantry units were made up mostly of Vermonters but included soldiers from New Hampshire and Maine. They were part of an overall deployment of 1,500 Vermont Army National Guard members, the largest deployment by the Vermont Guard since World War II.
Two members of the unit based at the Herrera combat outpost, Sgt. Tristan Southworth of Walden and Staff Sgt. Steven Deluzio of Glastonbury, Conn., were killed in firefights during summer 2010.
The 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based at Bagram Airfield north of Kabul, received the Meritorious Unit Award after its return from Afghanistan. The 3rd Batallion, 172 Infantry (Mountain) was attached to the regular Army’s 101st Airborne during the 2010 deployment.