Written by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Taji, Iraq – As the sun shone down on their heads in Taji, Iraq, the Soldiers of Company D, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Strike, stood ready. For some, this moment had come once, or twice before.
For a large number of the Soldiers however, this would be their first time. In a few minutes, they would don a Screaming Eagle on their right shoulder.
“Do not take it lightly what this patching ceremony means,” said Capt. Justin Shaw, the commander of Co. D. “You’re setting the standard.”Approximately 1,300 personnel in the 2nd Brigade Combat team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) have deployed to Iraq as part of Task Force Strike.
The task force is in Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, advising and building the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces to defeat the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
At locations throughout the country, U.S Soldiers, along with Coalition allies, go about their mission.
“You’re fulfilling the oaths you spoke when you enlisted – in a deployed environment.” said Shaw. “You are part of the 1 percent of the nation that were willing to take that oath to serve.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Bartel, command sergeant major of 1-26th Inf. Regt., or “Blue Spaders,” spoke of the importance of Company D’s and Task Force Strike’s mission in Iraq.
“The big picture,” said Bartel. “Is that we are doing what the United States government needs us to do to help the Iraqi Army defeat Daesh.”
The Blue Spaders are providing force protection and training their Iraqi counterparts, contributing to that overall strategic goal.
The 101st Airborne is a unit with a storied history that stretches back to World War II. For the Blue Spaders, this is their first deployment as Soldiers in the 101st and the Strike brigade, adding another chapter to their legacies, and achieving a historical first.
The regiment, historically affiliated with the 1st Infantry Division, was reactivated at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in April, 2015. This deployment marks the high point of a yearlong intensive training cycle.
“You are a part of the first Blue Spaders to receive a combat patch with the 101st,” said Bartel. “Fifty years down the road … when we’re telling war stories, that’s one thing you can be proud of.”
Some Soldiers in the formation have been a part of the Blue Spaders since their activation, seeing the unit grow from a small number of personnel to being deployed in Iraq.
“It’s a great feeling to be deployed with the 101st and Blue Spaders,” said Spc. Vernon Jones, a first-time deployer and Florida native who has been part of the Blue Spaders since February 2015. “I’ve been looking forward to being able to go serve overseas for a long time.”
The Shoulder Sleeve Insignia-Former Wartime Service identifier, or combat patch as it is commonly called, is worn on a Soldier’s right shoulder sleeve. Its history stretches back to World War II, when the wear of such patches signifying wartime service were first authorized.
The Soldiers of Company D will be able to wear the combat patch of the 101st Airborne throughout their Army career, signifying their experience in an overseas combat zone with the 101st Airborne Division in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.