Left to right in foreground are Sgt. 1st Class Stephen R. Kamppi and Sgt. 1st Class Samuel J. Randall III.
Two local veterans of the Iraq war have received recognition for the combat they experienced more than two years ago.
Sgt. 1st Class Samuel J. Randall III and Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Kamppi served with the 2/278th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. Recently, each soldier was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge.
The badge was established in 1943 in response to the disproportionate number of casualties faced by the infantry in World War II. The CIB is awarded to infantry soldiers at the level of colonel or below who performed satisfactorily while facing the enemy in a direct ground combat situation.
Randall and Kamppi did just that.
Randall was the mortar platoon sergeant of a team of soldiers manning a 120 mm mortar cannon.
“We did a lot of missions while we were over there,” Randall said. “We were very busy. I guess that’s why the time flew by.”
Randall and his mortar team were required to fire their mortars on the enemy while conducting operations. This act led to the award.
The team had to direct its fire to land in close proximity to friendly forces. They did so without error, Randall said, sometimes in direct support of special forces operations.
Randall thought the Iraqis were supportive of the U.S. mission in their country.
“They believed in us being there, and it was good to see that because it helped us believe that what we were doing was for a good cause,” Randall said. “The folks I met found out that we really cared about helping them out and they were going to get on their feet when the time comes.”
Randall said he thought at least 22 men who served with him were due CIBs, too. Because everyone scattered across the country after their tour, Randall said it has been hard to make contact with them.
“I actually retired in 2006, but I’ve made it my mission to keep plugging at this, to make it right for these men,” he said. “I’m very positive these guys will be awarded their CIBs.”
That badge is a source of pride for Randall.
“To me it means everything,” Randall said of his CIB. “It’s something my son will be able to look at later in life and say, ‘My dad actually went to a war zone and saw combat.’”
Kamppi was a sniper team leader and helped train snipers for the Iraqi army.
“To tell you the truth, that was the only operation I did over there that I knew I was going to be killed on,” he said.
Of course, he wasn’t killed. But he was placed in plenty of dangerous situations while in Iraq.
“The average mission lasted 12 hours,” Kamppi said. “We would go out overnight and come in before the sun came up.”
Most of Kamppi’s missions involved him and his partner being dropped off in areas away from a base, but he never lost his nerve.
“No, it didn’t bother me a bit,” he said. “I had all the confidence in the world in my partner. It never bothered me to walk out (of base) or be dropped off.”
Kamppi was the last of four snipers in two teams to serve together to be awarded the CIB.
Not everything Kamppi did involved combat, he said.
“During the election, the constitution vote ... me and my partner were standing out there for four days in the city of Tuz,” Kamppi said.
Kamppi and his partner were guarding collection sites and voters. Nothing happened on that watch, but Kamppi knew of other fellow soldiers who did have to engage enemy fighters during the elections. In fact, one of his fellow snipers got his CIB at that time when insurgents attacked a polling place.
Despite the threat to their lives, the Iraqis still came out to vote, Kamppi said.
“I just thought it was amazing,” Kamppi said of guarding and watching the election process. “People here in the states don’t vote if it rains. Those people were still coming out.”
His CIB award means that he passed the test, Kamppi said.
“That means, not only have you been there, but you’ve been in the fight,” he said.