BREWER, Maine — Members of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Mountain Infantry of the Maine Army National Guard got awards Sunday for bravery in the face of danger during the year they spent in Afghanistan.
“The Valorous Unit Award is given to an organization that performs activities in combat that would earn an individual a Silver Star,” Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell, adjutant general of Maine, said, repeating the statement twice for emphasis. “The company is the first unit in the Maine National Guard to ever get this award.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Edwards came up from the battalion headquarters in Vermont for the ceremony at the Brewer Armory, with Lt. Col. Jason Pelletier. Edwards stood before the members of Bravo Company and said he remembers a lot of the faces from their time together in eastern Afghanistan three years ago.
“You participated in an extremely complicated and dangerous mission and you did an outstanding job,” Edwards told the infantrymen.
Bravo Company, led by Capt. Paul Bosse, sent 152 Brewer-based soldiers to Afghanistan in late 2009, with soldiers returning in groups at the end of November 2010. All units within the 3rd Battalion have been honored with the Valorous Unit Award for their dedicated and heroic service.
“This was a historic mission for the unit because it was the first time the entire battalion was deployed,” Edwards said.
The Brewer soldiers completed 4,300 combat patrols during their time in east Afghanistan as well as nine air assaults, 65 named operations and 65 combat operations, the command sergeant major said, adding that 3rd Battalion had 26 soldiers who earned a Purple Heart — two of them from Brewer.
“I am humbled by you and proud to have served with you,” Edwards said.
Bosse and commander Capt. Todd Abbott, the unit’s executive officer during the deployment, were pinned with the medals on Saturday by Pelletier, who also mentioned that the Maine unit, one of six he commands in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, has been recognized as the top unit in the battalion.
Bosse said he is extremely proud of the men he served with and is pleased that they have been recognized at a national level.
“I know what an outstanding job they did, but to get recognition on a larger level is outstanding,” he said after the ceremony.
“They did some remarkable work,” Army veteran Charles “Dusty” Fisher, a troop greeter who served five years in the Maine Legislature and is a regular figure at the Brewer Armory, said of Bravo Company.
The ceremony also included a changing of command ceremony.
Commander Abbott and 1st Sgt. David Caswell, the senior noncommissioned officer, handed over leadership of the unit to Capt. Nehemiah Nattress, who is now the commander, and 1st Sgt. Brian Baker, who is the unit’s noncommissioned officer.
Abbott and Caswell were both given a citation for exceptional meritorious service.
Nattress is a native of Benedicta who enlisted in the Army and joined the Brewer unit in 1998 as a teenager, and has a master’s degree in criminal justice from Husson University. His most recent assignment was as operations officer for the 11th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team in Augusta. He lives in West Gardiner.
Baker, who is from Pittsfield, joined the Army in 1997 in Washington state and joined the Maine Army National Guard in 2000 and was assigned to the 172nd. Since then he has worked as a recruiter, with the 521st Troop Command and was deployed to Afghanistan with the Bangor-based 488th Military Police Company.
When Pelletier stood before the Maine soldiers, the first thing he did was thank the wives and loved ones who support them, saying “this is not easy stuff we do” and the support from home is necessary to make a well-rounded infantryman.
He then commented about all the company commanders for Bravo Company that started out at the bottom and worked their way to the top.
“You guys grow these commanders from privates,” Pelletier said.