Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Nightstalkers Came Home Heroes

USA Today has a piece on The Nightstalkers, who many of us came to know through Capt Dan Bout, the warrior poet, whose blog, 365 and A Wake Up developed a huge fan base.

Dan, who is now home from his tour of duty, and back at work as an anti-terrorism intelligence analyst for the California Department of Justice, is quoted throughout this piece.

In June, midway through their deployment, "The Army's Criminal Investigation Division swooped in. All 136 men in Alpha Company were confined to their base for a month while the investigation went on. Troops were crestfallen. “Everyone was painted with this big brush,” says Capt. Danjel Bout, 32, who was then Alpha Company's second highest-ranking officer."

The Army issued a news release saying that unnamed National Guard troops in Baghdad faced court-martial. The Army, citing a need to control public statements and ensure fair trials, ordered troops not to talk to relatives about the incident, according to Bout and Kothlow.

How the unit went from near-pariah status to vindication is a narrative about leadership and resilience.

"They did not change from black sheep to medal-winners overnight. Medal-winners had always been there.”, according to Lt.Col. Knapp.

The Army awarded the battalion 14 Bronze Stars for valor, in addition to 48 Bronze Stars for merit and 80 Purple Hearts. An after-action report that Coronado is preparing for the California Guard cites 6,800 combat patrols and 18 air assaults, 24 weapons caches discovered and 135 targeted insurgent suspects captured.

At the unit's homecoming in Los Alamitos, Calif., Schwarzenegger said: “In my movies I've been many times the action hero, but I know the difference between movies and real life. In real life, you are the true action heroes".

To those of us who came to know "The Nightstalkers" through Dan, Major K., and Russ Currie, there was never any doubt!

“The unit has been dragged through the mud, but it's only brought us closer together,” Bout says.

The real story is about a group of citizen-soldiers who succeeded,” says Wade, the California National Guard commander. “Yes, they faced obstacles along the way, but they overcame them. They can walk away from this year and a half with their heads held high, knowing that they made a difference.”

Read the entire piece here.

Read more about "The Nightstalkers" here and here and here .

Update: A cover story Friday about the California National Guard's 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment should have said that the soldiers guarding a Baghdad power plant where an Iraqi detainee was abused were assigned to Alpha Company, 2nd Platoon.


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