56th IBCT PAO, 36th Inf. Div, MND-B
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – In a memorable ceremony here on Christmas Day, Soldiers of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, donned their shoulder sleeve insignia, which signifies wartime service.
The Arrowhead Soldiers are now authorized to wear the historic “T” patch as their ‘combat patch’.
The Army combat patch has a long and storied history. Origins of the combat patch date back to World War I, when the 81st ‘Wildcat’ Division’s Soldiers affixed pieces of cloth with a figure of a wildcat on the shoulder of their sleeve following their service in Europe during The Great War.
Gen. ‘Black Jack’ Pershing authorized them to keep the patch and encouraged other units to adopt similar patches. Since World War II, it has been standard procedure to wear the combat patch on the right shoulder and the unit patch on the left. The intent of the patch is to recognize Soldiers who have served in a combat theater of operations. Receiving the patch for the first time can be very special.
“It is a rite of passage and is what signifies that a Soldier has served in a combat theater and it is forever a part of your military uniform,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John Morgan, senior enlisted leader, 56th IBCT.
For one Soldier of the Arrowhead Brigade, Sgt. 1st Class William Filyaw, it marks the second combat patch he has earned – but the first in forty years. Filyaw earned his first combat patch with Company A, 127th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division during an initial tour to Vietnam in 1968. During his tour to Vietnam, he was wounded in action and earned the Purple Heart Medal.
In the following years, Filyaw remained on active duty, serving in Germany, Fort Huachuca, Fort Hood and Fort Bragg. He worked at III Corps in the 1970’s and helped test prototypes of the BDU uniform, a scout car and recon motorcycles. While in Germany, he was honored to be invited to participate in the annual Nijmegen March in Holland and the Bern mountain climb in Switzerland. Both events are considered honors.
Filyaw has served in a variety of posts since joining the Texas National Guard in 1980. He has found time to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University, respectively. As a Texas Guardsman, Filyaw has served as a communications chief, a cavalry team chief, a platoon sergeant and a first sergeant. His most recent assignment was as a maintenance supervisor with the 36th Inf. Div. Support Command. His deployments with the Texas National Guard include rotations to Bosnia, the Balkans and Kosovo. He has served in support of three hurricanes, two major tornadoes and two major floods throughout Texas. Filyaw has been around long enough to see a lot.
“I’ve seen young lieutenants who are now lieutenant colonels, young specialists who are now sergeants and warrant officers, and I hope that I influenced them in a positive way,” Filyaw said.
Filyaw’s positive lasting memories of his Texas National Guard service include duty at four Governor’s inaugurations. However, he said his most positive memories are about Soldiers.
“Meeting fellow Soldiers and mentoring young Soldiers to see them achieve the rewards that honorable service gives is what I will always remember,” Filyaw said.
Filyaw’s advice to his young comrades is powerful. He describes the current situation in contrast to his first tour in Vietnam.
“Soldiers today have better leadership. In that they assure their troops are trained, equipped, and led. The caliber of Soldier is the same, although today’s Soldiers work and act smarter,” Filyaw explained.
Receiving his combat patch for the first time is Spc. Gregory Aaron Jr., 21, who serves with Headquarters and Headquarters Company 56th IBCT. Originally from the city of Crandall, in Kaufman County, Texas, where Aaron attended high school, he played football, tennis and ran track. After graduation, he attended Kilgore Junior College while working as a waiter.
He also coached football and track while studying. He joined the Texas National Guard in March 2007, enlisting as a human resources specialist and attending basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Jackson, S.C. He changed his military occupational specialty to infantry in March of 2008 and has served with the Arrowhead Brigade ever since. Aaron was motivated to join by his younger brother.
“My brother went to West Point at the time I joined. He is very supportive and provides encouragement, even though he’s younger than I am,” said Aaron.
He said he wants his parents to be proud of him and be able to see him get out there and do his best. He also hopes to benefit from his deployment time by gaining new insights into effective leadership styles and gain valuable experience.
“I want to be able to say ‘I’ve been there,'” said Aaron, who is considering furthering his military education and possibly even enrolling in Warrant Officer Candidate School.
“I want to lead Soldiers someday,” said Aaron. “I want them to look back and say that I pushed them to succeed – and look at me the way I look at some of my leaders today.”
By Capt. John Hutka