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Floor Statement on the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment


By Senator Wayne Allard, June 01, 2004

Mr. President, I rise today to commend the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment for its long-history of service to our nation and for its more recent heroic accomplishments in Iraq.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a welcome home ceremony for the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado. Unlike most welcome home ceremonies, this one was steeped in tradition.

Few units in the U.S. Army can claim as distinguished history as the 3rd Armored Cavalry. And, even fewer have had so many of its soldiers awarded medals for valor on the battlefield. The 3rd Armored Cavalry's service to our country did not begin in Iraq, or during World II. Indeed, not even in the past century. Rather, it began on May 19, 1846 by an Act of the 29th Congress of the United States. On that date, Congress authorized the creation of a regiment of mounted riflemen for the purpose of establishing military stations on the route to Oregon. Unbeknownst to Congress, this Regiment would go far beyond this limited mission in its service to our country.

A year after its creation, in 1847, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, then called the Mounted Riflemen, was sent into battle in the Mexican-American War. Leading the assault on the fortress of Chapultepec (Cha-pool-tee-peck), a key citadel outside Mexico City, Mounted Riflemen charged through heavy cannon fire to seize the castle and capture an enemy artillery battery.

Later in the war, the Mounted Riflemen were sent to capture another enemy artillery battery halfway to the Belen Gate outside Mexico city, and then on to capture a third battery in the assault on the gate itself. It was extraordinarily successful in all three assaults. General Winfield Scott, the Commander of U.S. forces during the Mexican War, was so impressed with the bravery and toughness of the Mounted Riflemen that he gave this commendation:

"Brave Rifles, veterans - you have been baptized in fire and blood and come out with steel. Where bloody work was to be done, "the Rifles" was the cry, and there they were. All speak of them in terms of praise and admiration. What can I say? What shall I say? Language cannot express my feelings of gratitude for your gallant conduct in this terrible conflict..."

Due to the bravery of their service, eleven troopers were commissioned from the enlisted ranks and nineteen officers received brevet promotions for gallantry in action.

At the time of the start of the Civil War, the First Regiment of Mounted Riflemen was redesignated as the 3rd U.S. Cavalry Regiment. During the war, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fought at the battle of Chattanooga, and in minor battles in New Mexico, Alabama, Tennessee, and Arkansas. During the campaign in New Mexico, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fought alongside the 1st Colorado Infantry Regiment, and Colonel "Kit" Carson, who commanded the 1st New Mexico Infantry Regiment.

Following the Civil War, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment was sent to the American West to the fight in the Indian Wars. The experiences of the Indian Wars were traumatic and brutal for the troopers of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, but they continued on. During the largest battle of the Indian Wars, the Regiment again distinguished itself. Four 3rd Cavalry troopers received the Medal of Honor for their heroism during the battle.

In 1898, the Regiment's mettle was again tested in the Spanish-American War. The 3rd Cavalry regiment, along with five other regular U.S. Cavalry regiments, was given the nearly impossible mission of assaulting the hills surrounding San Juan in Cuba. In the dismounted attack, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment's U.S. flag was the first to be raised on the point of victory.

With the turn of the century, armies began to turn to mechanized warfare. It wasn't until World War II, however, that the 3rd Cavalry Regiment was reorganized and redesignated as the 3rd Armored Group and sent to the European theater.

The troopers of the 3rd Cavalry Group became the spearhead of General Patton's drive across German-held France. In fact, because this unit was everywhere and nowhere at the same time, it was nick-named the "Ghosts" by the Germans. And, on November 17, 1944, the 3rd Cavalry Group became the first element of Patton's army to enter Germany.

At the war's end, the unit received high praise from its commanding general. General Patton commented with these words:

"The 3rd Cavalry has lived up to the accolade bestowed upon it at Chapultepec (Cha-pool-tee-peck) by General Scott. As horse cavalry you were outstanding; I have never seen a better regiment. To your performance as mechanized cavalry, the same applies. It is a distinct honor to have commanded an army in which the 3rd Cavalry served."

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment again distinguished itself on the field of battle. On February 22, 1991, the Regiment led the U.S. forces across the Iraqi border. 100 hours later, the regiment had moved over 300 kilometers north and left the remnants of three Iraqi Republican Guard Divisions in its wake.

The purpose of reviewing the storied past of one of Army's most famed units is for each of us to understand just how important it was to these troopers that they live up to the unit's reputation in battle during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Unlike past conflicts, Operation Iraqi Freedom was, for the 3rd Armored Cavalry, a battle of a different kind. It was for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. It was securing the peace and preventing terrorist attacks. It was for rebuilding a nation devastated by war, brutality, and corruption.

The Regiment was responsible for controlling about a third of Iraq, including the hostile cities of Ramadi and Fallujah and Iraq's western borders with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Yet, the troopers performed their mission with excellence. They were determined in the face of opposition. They overcame unforeseen challenges. They worked as never before.

They also cared deeply about the Iraqi people. In one case, the regiment helped three rural villages in rebuilding their decimated communities. The troopers worked alongside families repaired and reconstructed facilities damaged and neglected for 30 years under the former regime. Schools, medical clinics and houses were rebuilt so that children could return to school and health care could be provided to all.

In other cities, troopers from the regiment helped build sewer and water projects, rebuild schools, and provide clothes, blankets, and food to needy adults and children.

These are only a few examples of the outstanding work these troopers did in Iraq. And, now, as these troopers reflect upon their service, they can say with pride that they accomplished their mission and made a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people.

However, their service did not come without a high cost.

Private First Class Armando Soriano joined the Army so that he could help his parents, who had immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. His goal was to save enough money to buy his parents and his four siblings a house.

Yet, it was his love for his comrades that made him stand out, and as a result, he became one of the best young soldiers in the 3rd Armored Cavalry. At 5 feet 6 inches, PFC Soriano weighed barely more than the 100-pound artillery shells he hefted as part of his job driving a 155 mm cannon through Iraq.

But that didn't stop him. He was faster than any of his comrades in lifting these huge shells.

He was known in the unit as a soldier who would do anything for his fellow troopers. He was always positive and kept everyone going despite the tough conditions. His fellow soldiers described him as "simply the best".

Sadly, Private First Class Armando Soriano died on February 2, 2004 in truck accident in Iraq.

Specialist Brian Penisten, one of the unit's best mechanics, loved fishing, fixing cars and woodworking. He was a devoted family man with a four-year old son. And, he was proud that he got to wear the uniform of the United States Army.

"He could make us look forward to doing our jobs every day," according to one of his fellow soldiers. "He would be the one to make us shine and laugh and cry and everything else."

"He was always doing something to make things better," said another.

Specialist Brian Penisten was headed home for his wedding to his long-time girlfriend when his transport helicopter was shot down on November 2 by a guerrilla missile near the city of Fallujah.

He was buried on the day he was supposed to be married.

Mr. President, these are only two stories of the 49 soldiers from Colorado that have died while serving our nation in Iraq. And, another 233 were wounded.

Despite the high cost, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment embraced their mission and worked each and every day to better the lives of the Iraqi people.

Troopers like Sergeant First Class Dean Lockhart have continued to demonstrate a devotion to the Army and our country despite the high price he has had to pay.

On July 23, Sergeant Lockhart was manning his Humvee machine gun when a roadside bomb demolished his Humvee. Shrapnel from the bomb pierced his back, shattering his pelvis and leg. After numerous surgeries and endless days of pain, Sergeant Lockhart is back in Colorado recovering from his injuries.

Despite the physical and psychological toll, Sergeant Lockhart has not given up. He still wants to spend seven more years in the Army and he still believes in the U.S. mission in Iraq. He doesn't blame anyone for his injuries and has no regrets. If his unit was back in Iraq, he would return in a moment's notice.

Mr. President, I cannot begin to express to you and to the rest of my colleagues how thankful I am for the service these brave men and women from the 3rd Armored Cavalry have given to our country. Over 400 of these troopers earned medals of valor, including 200 purple hearts. They sacrificed much, but they never gave up. They accomplished their mission, fought with dignity and honor, and continued the heroic legacy of the 3rd Armored Cavalry. Last week, I watched in amazement as the troopers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment were told that they had both literally and figuratively earned their spurs. Each of them are now allowed to wear those spurs in public in recognition of the unit's historic past, and more importantly, in appreciation for the unit's heroic service to our country in Iraq.

Mr. President, these are fine troopers who deserve our honor, our praise, and our admiration. I commend the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment for its for its service to our nation, and I and rest of the State of Colorado welcome them home.

I yield the floor.

 

 

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04/28/2005 19:36