The Army's most decorated medical unit heads back to Iraq
By Sgt. 1st Class Erick Ritterby
4th Sust. Bde. PAO, 13th SC(E)
FORT HOOD, Texas — Sweat dripped from the foreheads of the friends and relatives of the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Soldiers in the late summer morning as a crowd of nearly 100 filled the stands of Fort Hood’s Guidon Field for the 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion’s casing ceremony on Sep 3.
The ceremony signified the completion of the battalion’s training phase at Fort Hood and marked the beginning of the battalion’s year-long deployment to Iraq, where they will provide combat health support for U.S. and coalition forces currently serving in the Middle-eastern country.
“This is one of the best formation’s of Soldiers I have ever been associated with,” said Lt. Col. Keith Rigdon, 61st MMB battalion commander. “They are technically and tactically ready for this mission.”
The medics and doctors of the 61st MMB are known as “Brave Mercy,” and they have served the nation since World War II. In fact, the battalion is the most decorated corps-level medical unit in the Army today with 19 campaign streamers and three Meritorious Unit Commendations. And now it’s time for a new group of Soldiers from the battalion to live up to that honorable motto.
“We will provide world-class healthcare,” said Rigdon. “It’s a tremendous responsibility for this unit but I have no doubt we will succeed.”
Some of that medical care includes surgical capabilities, life support, preventive medicine, mental health, and ground evacuation.
In June 2005, the 61st MMB became the first medical battalion to modularly transform in the Army, and the unit is no stranger to Iraq – the battalion deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.
“But the atmosphere in Iraq is very different now,” said Lt. Col. Cephus Roupe, rear detachment commander for the 1st Medical Brigade. “And you are the men and women who will help transform the level of care in that country.”
Roupe shared the grassy field with the deploying Soldiers as their unit commander, Rigdon, and Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Velez, cased the unit’s colors. It may be a frequent sight at a military installation like Fort Hood, but this is the first deployment for many Soldiers in the unit.
“Never let your guard down, take care of the first timers, and take care of each other,” said Roupe. “I will help and support all your Family members to ensure they are self-sufficient and can weather through this temporary separation.”