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Old 11-15-2008, 08:12   #3
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Location: Fayetteville, NC
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Green Berets earn prestigious award
Valorous Unit Award equivalent to an individual receiving Silver Star

By JAKE LOWARY The Leaf-Chronicle November 15, 2008

It took four years, but the soldiers of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group on Friday received the "overdue honors" they deserved.

The Green Berets, about 80 in total, were presented the Valorous Unit Award the second-highest award for a military unit for their efforts from July 20 to Dec. 1, 2004.

The award is considered the equivalent of an individual receiving the Silver Star.

Maj. Paul Pfeiffer, commander of A/1/5, as it is more commonly known, said it is "exceptionally rare for an element this small to be awarded this honor."

"Today we break from the routine," he said to the small crowd. "As Special Forces soldiers, we often pride ourselves at being the quiet professionals. We do our job most of the time exceptionally well and continue on with little fanfare."

Friday's ceremony was an exception.

During their six-month tour, the soldiers liberated two Iraqi cities An-Najaf and Al-Fallujah defeated the Mahdi Militia and several other Sunni insurgent groups and paved the way for the first democratic election in modern Iraqi history.

Over the course of their deployment, the soldiers earned 27 individual awards for valor, including the Silver Star, 13 Bronze Stars and seven Purple Hearts. They also lost a comrade, Capt. Mike Tarlavsky, who died Aug. 12, 2004, while leading a group of Iraqi counterparts on a raid in An-Najaf to capture Shiite extremists.

Master Sgt. Larry DeBusk earned a Bronze Star with Valor during that deployment.

Although Pfeiffer called the award "overdue," DeBusk said it was nice to finally get credit for the efforts he and his comrades had made. DeBusk will soon deploy to Iraq for the sixth time.

"It's nice to see the company is recognized for all of its hard work during that rotation," he said.

He also understands the delay.

"Things take a while in the Army," DeBusk said.

DeBusk said the election was a critical part of the deployment and the progress in Iraq. "We were a big part of that, and we're really proud of that," he said.

The company commander at the time, Lt. Col. Dean Franks, who in a few months time will take command of 1st Battalion, said he and the other soldiers on the parade field do get a sense of accomplishment from seeing the ribbons atop the company colors.

"It's just part of the bastion of freedom and liberty, the right to vote," he said.

Jake Lowary covers military affairs. He can be reached at 245-0719 or by e-mail at
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