January 8, 2012 12:56:00 AM
Uruzgan, Afghanistan -- While family and friends in the states were sound asleep the day after Christmas, the soldiers of the 288th Sapper Company out of Houston were on mounted patrols. The company was clearing routes to make the roads safer for military and civilian personnel.
The company participated in a routine morning briefing. The convoy commander went over what their mission was, safety issues and contingency plans. They also said a prayer before going out. This particular morning, the 233rd Engineer Battalion's chaplain, 1st Lt. Jason Bird, offered a special Christmas prayer.
"It was nice having the chaplain here. The night before, he gave a good sermon and we all hung out by the bonfire. It definitely made this Christmas being here special," said Spc. Patrick Griffith of Amory.
The convoy started on its five-hour mission, clearing mostly unimproved roads around the base. When the convoy returned, it reported an uneventful mission. After a quick traditional Australian Christmas lunch (which consists of shrimp, mussels, salmon and calamari), the soldiers were outside in formation for their combat patch ceremony.
The ceremony occurs when a company has spent 30 days in country. The battalion commander replaces the old patch on the subordinate unit's uniforms with the current combat patch of the parent unit, 168th Engineer Brigade out of Vicksburg. Lt. Col. Michael Cleveland, commander of Task Force Knight Battalion, called the company to attention and replaced the patch of Capt. Brenton Montgomery, the company commander. He then replaced the patches of each of his platoon leaders. He then called company 1st Sgt. Gerald Greenwood to the front of the formation and replaced his patch. The rest of the company's patches are changed successively.
Griffith said, "Having the combat patch ceremony on Christmas made it special. It wasn't just any other day; it was Christmas day. What made it better is that this is my first combat patch. Makes me proud."
Spc. Zeb Scarborough of Richland said, "I miss being at home, but this is our job. This is what we're here to do. Plus, I wasn't totally away from family; my cousin is here, also."
After the patch ceremony, soldiers were released to use Skype to talk to their families so they could watch them open presents Christmas morning, Central time.
The 288th Sapper Company is deployed to Afghanistan under the 223rd Engineer Battalion of West Point to provide route clearance during Operation Enduring Freedom.