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Vicenza unit earns 2 awards for Afghan missions

Jan. 16, 2012 - 07:20AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 16, 2012 - 07:20AM  |  
Scouts of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, pull overwatch while fellow paratroopers search a village in the Chowkay Valley in Kunar province, Afghanistan, in September 2007.
Scouts of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, pull overwatch while fellow paratroopers search a village in the Chowkay Valley in Kunar province, Afghanistan, in September 2007. (Army)
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One of the most highly decorated battalions to fight in Afghanistan can now add two prestigious unit awards. For its Afghanistan deployment from June 2007 to August 2008, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Brigade Combat Team, out of Vicenza, Italy, earned the Presidential Unit Citation and the Valorous Unit Award.

This unit-level recognition is in addition to a slate of individual valor awards presented to soldiers from that battalion, including the first Medal of Honor awarded to a living service member since the Vietnam War.

Staff Sgt.">Salvatore Giunta, who has since left the Army, received the nation's highest award for valor after running through heavy enemy fire to rescue a badly wounded comrade during a deadly ambush Oct. 25, 2007, in the Korengal Valley.

Soldiers from the battalion also earned two Distinguished Service Crosses, the second-highest valor award, and 27 Silver Stars, the third-highest award for valor.

The battalion's Presidential Unit Citation was awarded for the soldiers' "extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy" from June 5 to Nov. 10, 2007, according to an order issued Oct. 26.

The Valorous Unit Award was awarded for the soldiers' actions from Jan. 25 to July 30, 2008.

According to the Army regulation on military awards, the degree of heroism required to earn a President Unit Citation is equivalent to that which would warrant award of a Distinguished Service Cross to an individual. The Valorous Unit Award is equivalent to awarding the Silver Star to an individual.

The battalion, while highly lauded for its actions during a difficult deployment to one of Afghanistan's most treacherous and contested regions, also came under fire for a deadly attack in Wanat.

Nine soldiers were killed and 27 others wounded in the July 13, 2008, attack, and family members of the fallen soldiers demanded the Army hold accountable members of the unit's chain of command for failing to properly plan and resource the soldiers' mission, leaving them vulnerable to the attack.

The families' efforts prompted a Central Command-directed review that led to recommendations to discipline three officers in the battalion and brigade. The officers were later exonerated after further review by the Army, and the officers were given a chance to appeal.

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