Written by Combined Joint Task Force-101 Public Affairs
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan – U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates presented six Silver Star Medals and a Bronze Star Medal with Valor to Task Force Bastogne Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Joyce December 7th.
The Soldiers, all from 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, were recognized for heroic actions during Operation Strong Eagle in June and July in eastern Afghanistan.“I feel a personal responsibility for each and every one of you, since I sent you here,” Gates said. “I feel the sacrifice and hardship and losses more than you’ll ever imagine. So I just want to thank you and tell how much I love you guys.”
During the ceremony, Gates recounted the unit’s mission as it embarked upon its first full-on encounter with an organized Taliban enemy.
“We are breaking the momentum of the enemy and will eventually reverse it,” the defense secretary said. But, he added, “It will be a while and we will suffer tougher losses as we go.”
The Silver Star awardees were: Army 1st Lt. Stephen R. Tangen of Naperville, IL; Army Sgt. 1st Class John P. Fleming of Alton, IL; Army Staff Sgt. Brent A. Schneider of Broken Arrow, OK; Army Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Hayes of Wyoming, MI; Army Cpl. Joshua Busch of Seymour, WI; and Army Pfc. Richard T. Bennett of St. Charles, IL.
“It’s huge to have the secretary of defense come out here to recognize these Soldiers who are out there taking the fight to the enemy every day,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of Command Joint Task Force-101 and Regional Command-East.
One of the Silver Star recipients echoed Campbell’s sentiment.
“It was an incredible honor that the secretary of defense would come; it was a little overwhelming,” said Tangen, Scout Platoon leader, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 327th Inf. Tangen was formerly 1st Platoon leader of Company C, 2nd Bn. 32th Inf.
“FOB Joyce gets attacked almost every day, so just the fact that he would come to a remote FOB like this and put his life on the line – it doesn’t happen every day,” Tangen said.
All recipients of the medals were recognized for their actions during time of heavy direct and indirect fire from the enemy during operation.
Tangen said he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did without his fellow Soldiers from 1st Platoon, Co. C.