Warrior's Night gives BLT 1/6 the chance to reflect on both success and sacrifice

7 Sep 2004 | Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

A sea of green uniforms recently crowded the main hall of the Reflections Conference Center aboard Naval Station Rota, Spain as the leadership of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines gathered for its second annual Warrior's Night.The last time the noncommissioned officers (NCOs), staff NCOs, and officers of the battalion conducted a Warrior's Night was before the unit set sail from the United States in mid-February as the ground combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).Since then, the unit has been the main effort of an amphibious landing exercise in Albania and a highly-successful four-month campaign of combat and civil military operations in Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM."We've been operating from three ships in different locations for a long time," said Lt. Col. Asad A. Khan in his opening remarks to the assembled leadership of BLT 1/6, "and now we finally have the chance to get together and share our experiences over the past several months."Warrior's Night derives its history from a number of sources. In centuries past, Viking clans from Scandinavia would gather after a raid or trading mission to celebrate their success and remember those who fell in battle. The tradition was carried on by the British and U.S. Navy and Marine Corps who formalized their events into "Mess Nights.""As a MEU we enjoyed great success in Afghanistan," said Khan, "you have truly made history."During the Warrior's Night, the Marines and Sailors of BLT 1/6 had dinner, and in keeping with tradition, recognized several of their own that had distinguished themselves during combat operations in Afghanistan. One Marine from each of the battalion's companies were designated 'guests' and seated in front of the assembled Marines and Sailors.The evening's guests were:- Cpl. Kristopher D. Turner was serving as a radio operator with Headquarters Co. during Operation ASBURY PARK in early June when his vehicle was ambushed by a numerically-superior anti-coalition militia force. Despite being hit by enemy rifle fire, Turner ignored the painful wound and not only returned fire, but continued to maintain and troubleshoot his vehicle's communications equipment. By keeping the lines of communication open, Turner enabled the task force command post to reinforce their position with additional forces and aviation assets.- Leading his rifle squad through nearly four months of continuous combat operations, Sgt. Todd Jones of Alpha Co. provided stalwart leadership to his Marines throughout the long and difficult campaign. During combat patrols and innumerable search operations, Jones continually led from the front to ensure his unit's success.- On June 30, Sgt. Joshua C. Shepard, a squad leader with Bravo Co., was participating in a cordon and search operation during Operation THUNDER ROAD when he found a hidden stash of arms and ammunition. Consisting of ten anti-tank mines, approx. 700 mortar rounds, over a dozen rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and more than 32 thousand rounds of ammunition, the discovery was among the largest caches discovered during the MEU's time in Afghanistan. Later in the operation, Shepard's squad came under automatic weapons fire from a Taliban insurgent hidden inside a building and he led the assault element that eliminated the enemy threat.- Sgt. Anthony C. Viggiani from Charlie Co. was leading his squad up a draw in pursuit of 20-30 anti-coalition militia fighters when his unit came under intense fire from a well-dispersed enemy force firing from mutually-supporting positions. Viggiani maneuvered forward to deal with the threat and in doing so, was wounded. Ignoring the injury, Viggiani pressed forward until he came upon a group of Taliban fighters hidden beneath a rock outcropping continuing to fire upon his pinned down Marines. Viggiani eliminated the position with rifle fire and a hand grenade, and in doing so, allowed his fellow Marines to push forward and deal with the rest of the enemy force.- As a machine gunner with the battalion's Combined Anti-Armor Team platoon, Cpl. Curtis L. Spivey often found himself in the thick of the fighting during Operations ASBURY PARK and THUNDER ROAD. Employing his MK-19 heavy machine gun with great effect during numerous engagements, Spivey also engaged enemy forces with an AT-4 anti-tank rocket and often dismounted his vehicle to close with the enemy. During an engagement on the opening day of THUNDER ROAD, Spivey participated in a fierce firefight that resulted in the deaths of three local anti-coalition militia leaders and a boon in intelligence information.- Assigned to Golf Battery, BLT 1/6's artillery battery, Sgt. Angel M. Delgado III and his provincial rifle squad of artillerymen was supporting an Army Special Forces unit near the village of Tangey in mid-April when they received their baptism under fire. While manning a cordon position around a village being searched by U.S. and Afghan National Army troops, Delgado observed an armed man attempting to flee the area on a motorcycle. Delgado took the man under fire, wounding him in the stomach and thus preventing his escape. Despite being the focus of enemy fire, Delgado entered the town where he supervised the medical treatment of the wounded Taliban fighter and participated in a search that yielded several weapons and a number of documents linking the wounded ACM fighter and other enemy fighters who had been killed or captured that day to the Taliban and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.Adding a somber note to the applause that followed the descriptions of the above Marines' service was the presence near the front of the hall of a table adorned with a single, untouched place setting and Purple Heart medal."We lost a fellow warrior in Afghanistan," Khan remarked, "so tonight has a special sentimental value for us all."The table was set to recognize the absence of Cpl. Ronald R. Payne Jr., a light armored vehicle scout who was killed in a firefight with Taliban forces on the evening of May 7.After the evening drew to a close, the Marines filtered back to their respective amphibious assault ships to continue preparing for the upcoming trans-Atlantic voyage home that will return them to Camp Lejeune in mid-September.In addition to BLT 1/6, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Rein), and MEU Service Support Group 22.For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC), visit the unit's web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit