The large, white tent behind the Crowne Plaza hotel in Warwick was the venue last Saturday for a gathering of soldiers, families, politicians and other dignitaries as 14 soldiers from the 169th Military Police Company were awarded medals for outstanding performance and valorous actions while stationed in Afghanistan.
The MP unit, headquartered on Airport Road in Warwick, is the oldest National Guard unit in the state, with its lineage going back to 1736 when England’s King George II granted a charter to Rhode Island to form the state's first militia unit. The unit fought in the Revolutionary War and in almost every U.S. war since.
The MP unit’s 141 soldiers returned to Rhode Island on June 15, after spending a year conducting military operations in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistant Force. Participating in the Army's reintegration to civilian life program, the unit's soldiers and their families were attending a Yellow Ribbon Event at the Crowne Plaza, an event designed to allow soldiers and their relatives to learn about benefits, medical care and re-employment rights, and to hear from experts who help soldiers map a successful return to their lives at home and at work speak on reintegration.
Governor Lincoln Chafee and Rhode Island’s National Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride, used the event to award medals to deserving soldiers. The well-decorated, airy and festive tent, supplied with ample and tasty refreshments, was an especially attractive location for the awards. Instead of conducting the awards ceremony at a drab armory during training time, the Yellow Ribbon Event allowed family members to be present in a very comfortable, non-regimented environment to observe the awards.
McBride awarded Bronze Star Medals to 12 soldiers for their sustained, outstanding performance of duty while "conducting military operations against a hostile force" in Afghanistan. Two additional soldiers were awarded medals for valor.
McBride awarded Staff Sgt. Michael Church the Army Commendation Medal with "V" device for valor. The award is worn to denote participation in acts of heroism involving conflict with an armed enemy.
The highest medal awarded at the ceremony was pinned on Sgt. Quinn M. Rogan by Chafee. Rogan received the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for valor, one of the Army’s top awards for heroism during combat operations. Only the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star rank ahead of the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device.
Both Rogan and Church were also awarded Purple Heart Medals for wounds received on Dec. 2, 2012 when enemy combatants set off a large explosion at the perimeter of the forward operating base the soldiers were protecting. Their awards for valor specified that the two soldiers, although wounded, fought the enemy without regard for their own personal safety while engaging the attacking forces at close range. Their lethal and suppressive fire repelled the enemy and prevented the base from being overrun.
In addition to awards given to soldiers, McBride awarded the Regional Volunteer Award of the Year to Deborah Sprengel. Only 10 such awards are issued nationally each year. Mrs. Sprengel distinguished herself through her outstanding volunteer actions on behalf of the soldiers of the 169th MP Company in her role organizing, leading and ensuring the success of the unit’s Family Readiness Group.
Besides the valor medals awarded to Rogan and Church, the 12 Soldiers who received Bronze Star Medals for outstanding performance of duty included:
Capt. Michael Calcagni, Company Commander
1st Lt. Derek George
1st Lt. Anthony Grassini
1st Lt. Peter Morris
1st Sgt. Harley Monteiro
Master Sgt. Anthony Atella
Master Sgt. Christopher Reddick
Sgt. 1st Class Derek Chobanian
Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Diggle
Sgt. 1st Class Kristofor Fisher
Sgt. 1st Class William Lemieux
Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Mendonca