Gov. Beshear honors Kentucky Guard Soldiers for wartime service during UK game half-time ceremony

Story and photos by Capt. Stephen D. Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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(The above video shows the 201st Engineer Battalion being honored on the floor of Rupp Arena during the UK vs. Loyola Game Dec. 22, when Gov. Steve Beshear and Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini presented the Valorous Unit Award in honor of the unit’s actions in Afghanistan in 2008. Video by Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

UK 201st (5)

Gov. Steve Beshear and Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini presented the Valorous Unit Award to the 201st Engineer Battalion in recognition of the unit's actions in Afghanistan in 2008. The 201st Engineers were honored on the floor of Rupp Arena during the UK vs. Loyola Game Dec. 22.(photo by Capt. Stephen Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

LEXINGTON, Ky.– Governor Steve Beshear joined Adjutant General Edward W. Tonini and thousands of University of Kentucky basketball fans in the presentation of a valorous unit award streamer to the Soldiers of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 201st Engineer Battalion at half-time during the game between UK and Loyola at Rupp Arena on Dec. 22.

“Today is a very special day to be recognized as a Kentucky Guardsmen,” said Maj. Gen. Tonini. “These Soldiers from the 201st did us proud in Afghanistan and continue to show Kentucky’s Unbridled Service in everything they do for our Nation and Commonwealth.”

The 201st headquarters is in Ashland, with the detachments and companys  in Cynthiana, Hazard, Jackson, Olive Hill, Pikeville and Prestonsburg. The unit was mobilized in March 2008 to conduct route reconnaissance and area clearance operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. More than 500 members of the “Workhorse Battalion” were credited for disposing of more than 200,000 landmines and improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan, clearing over a million square meters of terrain.

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The 201st Engineer Battalion was honored on the floor of Rupp Arena during the UK vs. Loyola Game Dec. 22, when Gov. Steve Beshear and Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini presented the Valorous Unit Award in honor of the unit's actions in Afghanistan in 2008. (photo by Capt. Stephen Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

“I had a chance to visit the Soldiers of the 201st with then-commander Mike Ferguson while they were in Afghanistan,” said Tonini. “These engineers truly earned this valorous unit award, as they put themselves in harm’s way — every day — to protect our fellow service members as they traversed all throughout Afghanistan.”

Other accomplishments during the 201st deployment to Afghanistan include:

*          65 percent of the Battalion was in direct contact with the enemy earning the 201st Engineer Battalion the Combat Action Unit Streamer.

*          413 Combat Action Badges were awarded to Soldiers for direct contact with the enemy.

*          44 Soldiers received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained from combat.

*          21 Bronze Star Medals for Valor and 32 Army Commendation Medals for Valor were earned for actions while engaging the enemy.

*          9 Combat Medical Badges earned by medical personnel giving aid during active combat.

The 201st lost one Soldier during its service in Afghanistan. 27 year-old Sgt. Daniel Wallace, of Dry Ridge, Grant County, Ky. was killed Oct. 31, 2008 when his unit was attacked by enemy forces while conducting a route clearing mission to remove IEDs in West Paktika Province, Afghanistan.

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