Fort Sill_Many soldiers strive to earn awards such as the Medal of Honor or Bronze Star, but a Fort Sill soldier is now the proud owner of a Superior Honor Award - and, it isn't from the Army. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Madison's award comes from the Department of State, and only a few other military personnel have been honored with the award. Madison worked on a provincial reconstruction team in Iraq to help Iraqis develop local economies and government.
Madison led teams in two districts of Baghdad on a mission to help Iraqis develop self-sufficient economic projects. He says a large part of the mission was to help introduce Iraqis to other Iraqis - including not-so-distant family members.
One project Madison began dealt with greenhouses. He says he found a female agricultural engineer to help, but needed a landowner to complete the project. Madison held a meeting and was approached by someone who could help. "He goes, 'I'll pay for it. I just need somebody to show me what to do.' It turns out this female was one of his cousins so I got them together," said Madison.
Within one week, all of the materials needed were purchased and construction had begun. Fort Sill Commander, Major General Peter Vangjel says that Madison's work earned the prestige of the State Department Award. "It's for significant and substantial activities that either improve the state of a nation, or that assure the safety and security of the United States citizens within that nation," said Vangjel.
Madison's responsibility also was to take care of the citizens themselves. "It's Iraqi people making decisions for themselves for the first time in a very long time," he said. "I think that's the most important part of it." Madison says his award shows progress for another country as well - the United States. "Our country is coming together when one agency of the government recognizes someone from another agency, and takes the time to put the pen to the paper and write the award," he said. "It shows that we're also moving forward."
Although the award is rare, Vangjel says the ongoing work of other soldiers in Iraq will likely earn more State Department awards. "That's something that's going to become more and more common as we start to look at the partnership that the Department of State and the Department of Defense have for security cooperation," he said.
Madison says he hopes the legacy of his work is not about him. He says he hopes that the U.S. can step aside, and Iraqis can continue to grow and make progress on their own.