102nd Field Artillery Soldiers Earn Combat Awards

By LTC Paul Greg Smith
Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs

11/2/05, Iraq Five members of the 1st Battalion, 102nd Field Artillery of the Massachusetts National Guard have been cited for their valorous action during an April 2 attack on Forward Operating Base Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

SGT Phillip Rand Jr., 33, a Bridgewater police officer, and MSG Joe Young, 52, of Orange who is serving his second tour in Iraq, were awarded Bronze Stars with V device for valor.

Army Commendation Medals with V device for valor were awarded to SSG Christopher Cheeto Yarger, 38, of North Attleboro, SGT William Gates, 28, of Belmont and SGT Jimmy Lok, 28, of Randolph.

According to U.S. Department of Defense News, the insurgent attack was a coordinated ground assault involving multiple attacks by an insurgent force estimated to be more then 60 members strong.

MSG Young, during a phone call to the soldiers at FOB Abu Ghraib, said, Small arms rounds, mortars, and rockets were going off all around us.

When one of the defending weapons systems went down, MSG Young, SGT Rand and the other soldiers stepped forward and took action.

SGT Rand recalled, I had to stand up and pull up on the weapons system to replace it Cheeto was covering me.

Cheeto (SSG Yarger) said, We knew it was vital for the safety of everyone to fight back the attack. When we heard on the radio that they needed help, I knew it was my job.

SGT Gates drove the truck that brought critically needed ammunition, water and medical supplies to fighting positions. There were bullets flying everywhere in our area. It wasnt any more dangerous to repel the attack than it was to stay in place, he said.

SGT Lok added, The soldiers under fire needed help, I really didnt think about safety at the time.

According to Department of Defense News reports, A quick reaction force made up of U.S. soldiers and Marines prevented the insurgency from breaching the walls. The five Massachusetts Guardsmen from the 102nd were a core element of that force.

The battalion commander at the FOB, LTC Mark Ray, 46, of Beverly, said, These guys acted with bravery and courage. Each of the 21 soldiers from the 1-102nd is a hero, but these five guys rose to the top.

Their courage actions saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers, Marines and Iraqi civilians, said BG Oliver J. Mason, The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard. This is at the heart of what it means to be a soldier, a patriot, and a hero.

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