FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – A Missouri National Guardsman recently received some overdue closure for his service on a 2004 deployment to Iraq.
Maj. Daniel Thompson, now the assistant operations officer for the 35th Engineer Brigade, was presented with a Bronze Star from that deployment by U.S. Representative from Missouri Jo Ann Emerson and Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, brigade commander, at a small ceremony at the unit on post.
Thompson, who lives in Farmington, was honored and humbled by the recognition.
“It’s a lightening of the heart,” said Thompson.
Emerson, with a husband who served and a son who participated in two tours to Iraq, said she understood the selfless sacrifices of our military and valued the importance of recognizing those who serve.
Alewel said he appreciated Emerson’s efforts to help Thompson receive the award.
“We’ve had a lot of Soldiers over the years that have done many great things and they need to be recognized for their achievements and accomplishments,” said Alewel, who lives in Warrensburg. “Even though they are sometimes not very timely, the bottom line is that they are awarded and we couldn’t do that without the help of our congressional representatives and senators.”
Although Alewel didn’t know him in 2004, he said Thompson is a fine officer and person.
“He is a true leader who looks at mission accomplishment first and then taking care of his Soldiers,” Alewel said of Thompson. “Everything beyond that is secondary.”
If he had to, Thompson said he certainly could have made it through life without receiving the award, but finally now having it helps justify his deployment to his Family.
“When you go away, and you leave your Family and your kids, and then you come back home after that time, there are differences in you and there are differences in them,” Thompson said. “That medal, which typically comes at the end of the tour, is kind of a validation point for why Daddy was away – why he couldn’t be there for birthdays, Christmas, plays and dances. And I didn’t have that validation.”
“Now that it’s been almost eight years, that opportunity has passed, although I’ll still go home with my kids and talk about this. I’m hoping this provides some closure.”
Thompson, who has been in the Guard for 18 years after a four-year stint in the active Army, was recommended for the Bronze Star immediately after the deployment, but it was missing a few key pieces of paperwork before approval could be sought.
“The process has been interesting,” Thompson said. “It’s sometimes challenging.”
Thanks to the diligence of Master Sgt. Mary St. George, brigade human resources noncommissioned officer, Emerson and her office, Thompson’s recommendation was resubmitted with all the necessary paperwork and ultimately approved.
“I’m very glad that Congresswoman Emerson cares enough about Soldiers to take the steps necessary to help them receive awards,” Thompson said.
Back in 2004, Thompson was a first lieutenant and first platoon leader for the Missouri Guard’s Company A, 1140th Engineer Battalion – a route clearance unit then in Farmington.
In the recommendation for the Bronze Star, Thompson’s company commander, Capt. James Craig Phillips, heaped praise on the platoon leader.
“Lieutenant Thompson has distinguished himself through exceptionally meritorious achievements and exemplary service,” Phillips noted. “His service, performance and knowledge of Combat Engineer operations, small unit tactics and group dynamics have clearly demonstrated he is truly outstanding among his peers. His superior training skills and keen attention to detail allowed first platoon to execute all counter-IED operations without injury to personnel or damage to equipment, despite inherent dangers.”
Phillips singled out one particular mission in his recommendation.
“Lieutenant Thompson’s ability to act under duress was directly responsible for the quick clearance of an IED during a complex attack, allowing targeted sustainment convoys to move out of the kill zone,” he wrote.
Thompson recalled that Phillips was a great leader who put a lot of trust in his junior officers.
“He was good about giving a mission and then stepping back and allowing his subordinates to run with it,” Thompson said. “He really put a lot of faith in me.”
Thompson reflected on those days in 2004 and how they contrast with his current Missouri Guard mission that involves filling out operations orders and planning missions for subordinate units.
“We’d get up around 4 a.m., load down the vehicles and catch breakfast as soon as the doors opened,” Thompson recalled. “Then we were out before daylight. We tried to get out early to make sure we could clear the roads before the convoys left on their supply routes to give them some safe barrier.”
Thompson said missions would last anywhere from eight to 15 hours.
“There were a lot of times where we came back under headlights in the dark,” Thompson recalled. “So we left before daylight and we came home after the day was done.”
The platoon’s mission was to drive along the shoulders of roads, visually and electronically scanning for IEDs. When an IED was located, Thompson would visually inspect it with binoculars before a Buffalo Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, a manned truck used to combat IEDs, would try to disarm it with a robotic arm. Thompson would then supervise the team in placing its own explosive charge on the IED to be set off in order to dispose of the ordnance, so it could not be reused by enemies.
“Sometimes you’d hit up to to four IEDs in a day and they varied in the amount of ordnance that were attached, as well as size,” Thompson said.
What added to the difficulty of the mission, Thompson said, is that his platoon would sometimes draw fire from guns and mortars.
“Once they put them into the ground, the enemy didn’t really like you to dig them up, so they would occasionally try to prevent that from happening,” he said. “But that was a typical day.”
Thompson is pleased that he might not be the only member of his unit from that deployment to be recognized with a Bronze Star. One of his Buffalo drivers, Spc. Timothy Glore, also was recommended for the award and it is currently under review. Glore is currently a sergeant who is set to deploy to Afghanistan with the 1138th Engineer Company, of Farmington.
Thompson is a 1983 graduate of Anna-Jonesborough High School in Illinois. He added a Bachelor’s of Science in special education from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 1991. Additionally, Thompson earned a Masters in education from the University of Wyoming in 1994, a Masters in education administration in 2002 from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar and a Specialist in education administration from Southwest Baptist in 2004.
During the week, Thompson works as an assistant principle in the Farmington School District.
He is supported in his military career by his wife, Rhonda, daughter, Heather, and son, Hunter, 15.