Message from
COL John P. "Pete" Johnson
(Commander, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 506th Infantry)
to those attending the
Currahee Memorial Dinner
August 16, 2008

Fellow Currahees….

It is an honor, and I am deeply humbled to address you, the "Band of Brothers", or as I like to term it the "Band of Currahee" from Afghanistan as our great regiment continues the fight for freedom in our current "Rendezvous with Destiny".

I want to first thank each of you for taking the time to participate in this year's reunion there in Reno, Nevada. My hope is by now you are in the midst of completing your meal with some dessert and perhaps an after dinner drink. Although we get treated pretty well over here…somehow our after dinner drink won't be quite the same as yours….so please enjoy one for us!

Before I begin I want to make sure you recognize the new Currahee Battle Flag posted behind me, We worked with you to design this flag, drawing upon our history and the symbols we are so proud of. Isn't it awesome. We are in the process of delivering these flags, donated by our Currahee Association to all of our combat outposts. We even placed one in our hospital so the wounded can gain strength from it.

Tonight, I want to take the time to talk about three things. The first thing I want to talk about is the phenomenal legacy of the Currahees that you vividly represent, next I want to provide an update on operations here in Afghanistan, and then I want to close out with a special announcement of our newest Distinguished Members of the Currahee Regiment.

When I found out I was going to be the commander of the 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, of the 101st Airborne Division, I received an e-mail from our Honorary Regimental Command Sergeant Major, CSM (Ret) Nichols, and he told me I was going to command the best Regiment and was indeed the luckiest Colonel in the Army. He was right on the money and then some.

Our shared lineage which is the result of each of your service with the Currahees is inspirational and is something that we are clearly proud of and ready to brag about. I do so with every VIP that comes our way.

I spend a considerable amount of time outlining your accomplishments from the start in Toccoa. I use our most precious symbols to talk about who we are; our crest, the pair of dice or bug and our spade. Our beginning is represented in our crest bearing old Mount Currahee-along with the lightning bolt reflecting our form of attack, assault from the sky, and the six Parachutes designating our heritage as the Army's 6th Parachute regiment. The "Pair of Dice" or "Bug" which our plankholders wore on their paratrooper smocks jumping into Normandy reflects our unit being first an independent regiment before its assignment to the Screaming Eagles. Our spade, of course, whose placement on our headgear to this day, sets us apart from the other units assigned to our great division.

We continue to pass on the heritage of your accomplishments to both visitors and new Currahees. We talk about your achievements at Normandy, Bastogne, Eindhoven, Bertchesgaden, Vietnam counteroffensives I & II, Tet, Dong Ap Bia Mountain ( more famously knownas Hamburger Hill), the Tongin River bridge in Korea, two tours in Iraq and now our mark on the historic legacy here in Afghanistan. We continue to "stand alone" yet "stand together" with you continuing the legacy of distinguished service in support of our great Nation.

Before I talk about what our Currahees are doing in Afghanistan, I need to first give you a "lay of the land" so you can better appreciate what we're doing. AO Currahee consists of the 6 provinces of Paktya, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni, Logar and Wardak in eastern Afghanistan. This area is approximately 25,000 square miles, roughly the size of the State of West Virginia. But unlike West Virginia with a population of around 1.8 million people, AO Currahee has an Afghan population of 4.7 million. The terrain in this area is some of the most rugged you will see. Altitudes range from 4000 feet to over 14000 feet, with population located in the darnest locations. We are also responsible for a contested border area covering over 400 kilometers with Pakistan. Just to provide a comparison, our brothers in the Marne division in Iraq recently completed their mission and stated they had an area roughly this size with seven brigades covering the area. We are doing it with one…so it provides a significant challenge.

We are fighting a counterinsurgency battle here in Afghanistan and the focus for all of our efforts is the Afghan people. We intend to separate the population from the enemy physically, but more importantly psychologically. The enemy is very complex, ranging from criminals, narco traffickers, Taliban, Haqqini network insurgents, HIG fighters, all the way to Al Qaeda. As we separate the population from the enemy we then endeavor to connect them with their government and their Afghan national security forces, which include their Army, their police and their border police. Our aim is to influence an Afghan population that has already suffered terribly through decades of fighting and austerity, to embrace the Afghan government as a legitimate way to achieve a better future for their children and to reject an alternate vision of death and destruction. We do all this by leading from behind to build the capacity of our Afghan brothers so we may one day return home. We invest a considerable amount of effort improving roads, schools, clinics and fostering good governance at the provincial and district level. There are many brave Afghans stepping up to the plate and I'm optimistic for the future
That being said there is a fair amount of closing with and destroying the enemy by our Currahees. You would be proud to witness our brave Soldiers who heroically do what it takes to accomplish our mission. We are here to win and will continue to do what it takes to protect our Currahees while we exact a huge price on the enemy.

Combined Task Force Currahee is a combined force of over 6,000 Soldiers, sailors, airmen and two Marines. Our maneuver units include 1st and 2nd battalions of the 506th, 6th Polish Air Assault Battalion, 1-61 Cavalry, 4-320 Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Special Troops battalion, and our 801st Brigade Support Battalion. We also have six Provincial Reconstruction teams, four American and one Czech, and we coordinate with a Turkish provincial team. We also have an Agribusiness Development Team from the Texas Army National Guard, an MP battalion from Fort Bragg, a direct support Aviation task force consisting of OH-58 Kiowa warriors, CH47 Chinooks, UH-60 Blackhawks and AH-64 Apaches. We also have additional augmentation of an Infantry company from the Guam National Guard.

Our maneuver forces and PRTs partner together to form provincial teams. For example, Team Ghazni consists of Red Currahee, the Ghazni PRT and the Texas ADT. Red Currahee primarily focuses on security, while the Ghazni PRT primarily focuses on the governance and development lines of operation.
We also partner very closely with the 203rd Afghan National Army Corps, headquartered in Paktya province. Our intent is to build their capacity to take on more and more of the security operations role in our AO. Much of the Currahee staff spend at least two weeks of the month with the 203rd Corps headquarters planning and coordinating upcoming operations. Immediately after our arrival we assisted the 203rd Corps develop a campaign plan through next spring. We've completed three operations since our arrival and we are in the midst of our fourth combined operation.

I wish you could see our Currahees in action here in Afghanistan. Command Sergeant Major Coop and I are constantly amazed at what our Currahees are achieving.

Our Currahees have already fought bravely and we are clearly disrupting enemy efforts to achieve any significant gains here this year. As an example right now we are in the middle of a decisive operation to disrupt insurgent objectives in what is known as the KG Pass, a historically important pass that connects the province of Khowst, which is where my headquarters is and the rest of the interior of Afghanistan. We are completely surrounded by mountains with one major navigable high mountain pass to move our logistics and Afghan commerce through. In the Soviet campaign the Mujahideen stopped two divisions in their tracks trying to open up the line of communications for their forces in Khowst. The insurgents we fight today are going to the same playbook and we've read it. We deployed forces from three of our battalion task forces along with our partnered Afghan Army forces into this fight, conducting 7 combined air assaults into rugged high mountain terrain at elevations of around 9500 feet. Our Currahees are finding their caches, bed down locations and have killed or captured a significant number of insurgents. By doing this we not only defeat the enemy's strategy we also set the conditions for what will be our most important development effort; the construction of a $100 million road, blasted through these mountains that will enable this government to connect with the population in a traditionally tough spot.

Next year during our Currahee Rendezvous I will be able to share many more with you over a cold tasty beverage…preferably one I can't have right now due to General Order Number One!

Before I transition to the recognition of our newest Distinguished Members of the Regiment, it is fitting that I talk to you about our fallen heroes. In the short time we have been here, Currahees have proven their mettle in battle, experienced the exhilaration of victory, and, like most of you, we have shared in the sorrow of those lost….I want to take a few moments to talk about them.

I carry the photos and a narrative about each Currahee we have lost to remind me daily of their sacrifice. Some were Currahees from our 4th Brigade Combat Team, one a civilian about to receive his PhD, others part of our Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and others from the armies of our NATO allies. While their unit designations are different, they were all Currahees. While thinking about my remarks for today, I wanted to honor the memory of 20 fallen Currahees:
Specialist Estell Turner, Polish Lieutenant Robert Marczewski, Navy Hospitalman Marc Retmier, Navy Construction Mate 1st Class Ross Toles III, Major Scott Hagerty, Specialist Derek Holland, Private First Class Chad Trimble, Navy Lieutenant Jeffrey Ammon, First Lieutenant Jeffrey DePrimo, Sergeant Isaac Palomarez, Private First Class Ara Deysie, Staff Sergeant Kevin Roberts, Specialist Jeremy Gullett, 1LT Nick Dewhirst, SPC Samson Mora, SGT Brian Leon Gerrero, SGT Ryan Baumann, Mister Michael Bhatia, Czech Republic Staff Sergeant Radim Vaculik and Polish Corporal Grzegor Politowski…..Our storied legacy continues to built upon the blood and sacrifice of our Currahees. We will honor their memory by rededicating ourselves to the mission and winning by accomplishing our purpose. Along with the fallen, we have suffered 155 wounded in action, to include 19 that were evacuated out of theater due to the seriousness of their wounds. On behalf of our Currahee team I want to personally thank our brothers from the Currahee Association who have invested their time by visiting our wounded and their families at hospitals all across America. It means a great deal to us to have this special bond and connection with you.

Before I transition to the Distinguished Member of the Regiment announcements, I want to proclaim that we are in the midst of putting together the biggest, best, most incredible, ….Currahee celebration next year. We are calling it the "Currahee Rendezvous", and I can guarantee you it is something any Currahee worth his salt will want to be a part of. We plan to conduct it in the Fort Campbell/Nashville area and the intent is to provide an opportunity for ALL Currahees and their families to get together for a huge reunion, give you the opportunity to meet with current Currahees as well as swap lies with all the former ones there with you now. There will be some events on Fort Campbell as well as a ball we plan on conducting in Nashville. We also plan on presenting several awards, most notably Distinguished Member of the Regiment awards for 2008 and 2009. We plan on conducting this approximately 60 days after our re-deployment from Afghanistan. We are currently planning on a 15-month deployment ending in June next year, so we are looking at dates in August. If for some reason our re-deployment date adjusts we'll plan on sixty days after re-deployment, as most of our Soldiers will be reassigned shortly after that time period.

Although we won't do the official presentations until the Currahee rendezvous, there are several individuals I want to recognize as 2008 Distinguished Members of the Regiment and present congratulatory letters tonight to each of them and then present official certificates during Currahee Rendezvous next year.

The 2008 selectees for Distinguished Member of the Regiment are….

GEN(R) John W. Hendrix (HHC/A/D/1-506 Vietnam)

COL(R) Ralph Puckett (HHC/1-506 Vietnam)

COL(R) Linwood E. Burney (A/E/1-506 Vietnam)

Mr. Les Sabo (B/3-506 KIA 5/10/70 Cambodian invasion during Vietnam)

SGM James C. Clinton (HHC/506th RCT)

BG Mark Milley (HHC/1-506 Korea, 1996-1998)

Mr. Eugene L. Overton (C/1-506 Vietnam)

MAJ Mark "Zippo" Smith (C/1-506 Vietnam)

Mr. Stephen G. Avgerinos (D/1-506 Vietnam)

Mr. Kenneth J. David (D/1-506 Vietnam)

Mr. Ronald B. Kane (D/1-506 Vietnam)

Mr.Gregory P. Phillips (D/1-506 Vietnam)

Mr. Gary Gilliam (C/2-506 Vietnam)

Mr. Octavio Laguna (C/2-506, 1964-1966)

Mr. Frank D. Matsko (C/2-506 Vietnam)

Mr. James D. Roesch (C/2-506 Vietnam)

COL(R) Richard M. Seitz (C/2-506 Vietnam)

Mr. Roy D. Skeggs (C/2-506 Vietnam)

Mr. John R. VanAlmen (C/2-506 Vietnam)

COL John Geraci (HHC/3-506 Vietnam)

This distinguished recognition is not only a reflection of tremendous service with the Currahees, but also exemplary service in the community as well. I want to congratulate each of the selectees and ask you to start taking a look now at putting together nomination packets for next year's Distinguished Member of the Regiment board which we will conduct approximately 60 days prior to our re-deployment.

In closing, thank you for attending tonight's ceremony and thank you for your continued contributions and support to our Currahees and our families as well as the sacrifice each of you made for the cause of freedom as a Currahee.


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506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association (Airmobile - Air Assault)
This page updated 04/06/13