MND-B scholar, comrades keep ‘Mercury’ rising
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – Mercury was a messenger for the Roman gods. In modern times, his name has influenced a number of things in the scientific fields, such as the planet Mercury and the element mercury.
He was a god of trade, profit and commerce and his name is related to the Latin word “merx,” meaning merchandise. He is also the namesake of a piece of Army “merchandise” recently awarded to eight Soldiers of 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, at the Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory July 31.
Awarded by the Signal Corps Regimental Association located at Fort Gordon, Ga., the Bronze Order of Mercury recognizes those who have contributed significantly to the promotion of the Signal Corps and the Signal Regimental Association. It is the first part of a potential two-level award (Silver being the other) awarded to association members in good standing.
“These individuals have demonstrated the high standards of integrity, moral character, professional competence and selflessness,” said Maj. Ruth Sonak, a native of Humble, Texas, who serves as commander of Company C, Division Special Troops Battalion, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B. “They have contributed significantly to the promotion of the United States Army’s Signal Regiment and are therefore awarded the Bronze Order of Mercury,” she added prior to the award being presented to the eight (seven in attendance) recipients.
“Today’s ceremony is to recognize senior captains and senior NCOs (noncommissioned officers) who have contributed to the Signal Corps Regiment throughout their career,” Sonak said. “We are looking for officers and NCOs who show high standards of morals and integrity, who have set the example for their junior enlisted Soldiers and other officers, and who have emulated what we call significant and excellent signaleers,” she added.
The eight 4th Inf. Div. “signaleers” receiving the award were: Capt. Amber Walker, a native of Columbiana, Ohio, who serves as the DSTB communications chief as well as the executive officer of Co. C; Capt. James Hoffman, a native of Kingsport, Tenn., who serves as extension detachment commander, Co. C; Capt. Sylvan Smith, a native of Clinton, Md., who serves as the network operations officer for 4th Inf. Div.; Capt. Aaren Hanson, a native of Lakeland, Minn., who serves as the commander of the unit command-post detachment for Co. C; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Al Mendoza, a native of Chelan, Wash., who serves as the officer in charge of electronics maintenance for Co. C; Sgt. Maj. Nathaniel Hatchett, a native of Pensacola, Fla., who serves as the chief signal NCO for Co. C; 1st Sgt. Eric Crayton, a native of Sparta, Ga., who serves as the senior NCO of the extension detachment, Co. C. Additionally, 1st Sgt. Thomas Jones, a native of Toms River, N.J., who serves as the senior enlisted soldier for the UCPD, Co. C, was unable to attend the ceremony, but will be receiving the award at a later date.
“To receive this award is an honor,” said Sonak. “Generally, throughout their careers, this is often overlooked and today I’m really happy that we’ll be giving this to these significant folks who have given a lot of contributions over the years to the Signal Corps,” she added.
One of the notable contributors receiving the award was Walker. In addition to her many military roles such as keeping track of troops on the battlefield, improving how the new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles are being fielded (as far as communications equipment), taking care of the division command group vehicles by providing communications support, she was also the top of her class in 2004 at West Point and a recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England, where she earned a masters’ degree in aeronautical engineering in 2006.
Walker took a more pragmatic approach to her receipt of the award.
“Maj. Sonak spearheaded the effort to get most of the captains in her command the Bronze Order of Mercury,” she said. “I like to think it was a cumulative effort. I spent four months here as a platoon leader with the joint network node getting it ready for deployment and then I helped deploy the company as the unit movement officer.”
Walker was not the only one receiving high praises from her commander. Along with her fellow officers, Sonak was quick to recognize the contributions of her unit’s senior ranking enlisted honorees.
“For Sgt. Maj. Hatchett, it’s the numerous deployments and sacrifices that he’s made throughout the years to ensure the tactical war fighters are well taken care of,” Sonak said. “He’s taken the hard jobs. He’s an outstanding leader and always puts his Soldiers first,” she added. “For 1st Sgt. Crayton, it’s the same thing. He’s made many sacrifices to be here with us. He always sets the right example and always puts the welfare of his Soldiers before his own,” she said.
There was plenty of praise to be offered for all of the honorees and it was summed up best by the guest speaker and award presenter, Col. Campbell Cantelou, a native of Columbus, Miss., who serves as the communications chief for Multi-National Corps – Iraq.
“It takes us all as a team, like these folks in front of us, to make it work,” Cantelou said. “These are all veterans, most of whom have been over here more than once. It is truly my honor to stand out here in front of the great 4th Infantry Division and present this award,” he concluded.
Though the soaring temperature and the sun beamed down on the honorees and those attending, for Walker and her fellow honorees it seems that the “Mercury” will just keep on rising.
By Spc. Douglas York