June 16, 2008

237th Engineer Soldier gets battlefield promotion

By 1st Lt. Jonathan York
237th Engineer Company

From left to right: Sgt. 1st Class Harvey Blow, platoon sergeant; Sgt. T.J. Richey, team leader; Capt. Beau Mason, commander; Spc. Frederic Newton; Sgt. Maj. D.L. Westbrooks, first sergeant; Staff Sgt. Daniel McCann, squad leader. (Photo by Spc. Bryan Rearick, 237th Engineer Company)  Click HERE to download a high resolution version of this photo.

BAGHDAD — While most Soldiers have to wait a specified time in rank or have a selected number of years in service to be promoted, Frederic Newton is the exception to the rule. Newton, a member of the 237th Engineer Company, received a battlefield promotion from Private First Class to the rank of Specialist on May 17, 2008. 

By regulation, promotion to the rank of Specialist is reserved for Soldiers who have 24 months time in service and 6 months in the grade of Private First Class. However, during combat operations, commanders reserve the right to waive promotion requirements based on a Soldier’s performance and exceptional accomplishments during combat. 

Spc. Newton was selected as one of the first National Guardsman to benefit from a new Army experimental program reintroducing battlefield promotions for the first time since World War II. He was selected for promotion with just over a year of time in service by order of Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of Multi-National Division Baghdad.

Newton, a native of Amherst, Va., was the only Soldier from the more than 600 in the 35th Engineer Brigade to be selected for a battlefield promotion. Additionally, he was one of only five National Guard Soldiers across Iraq to receive a battlefield promotion.

Newton arrived at the 237th Engineer Company immediately after completing Advanced Individual Training (AIT) as a combat engineer. While at AIT, he was awarded the Trail Blazer award for his outstanding leadership attributes and defining the Sapper ethos. He excelled in physical fitness and qualified as expert on his primary weapon, the M-4 rifle. 

Newton’s natural leadership continued into the deployment where he has become one of his platoon’s experts in enemy Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs), developed expert proficiency on the M-2 and M240B machine guns, and has identified improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during the unit’s route clearance missions. His weapons expertise proved vital as he neutralized multiple enemy threats during intense combat operations in Sadr City. He has also been awarded the Combat Action Badge.

Newton’s interest in joining the National Guard sparked after hearing about the experiences and camaraderie shared by several of his fraternity brothers.  A sophomore at the University  of Virginia’s College at Wise, Newton is majoring in economics and is an active member of the Gamma Chi Omega Fraternity. Four of his fraternity brothers served in Company B, 276th Engineer Battalion during their last deployment to Mosul, Iraq in 2004-2005. 

He specifically requested to join the 237th Engineer Company upon completing AIT to serve with his fraternity brothers, one of whom is his team leader, Sgt. T.J. Richey. His other fraternity brothers also serve in leadership positions. Staff Sgt. Joel Williamson serves as platoon sergeant and Sgt. James Corbett, who was wounded during an IED attack in October 2007, served as a squad leader.

Newton also credits Spc. (Retired) Dean Schwartz, another fraternity brother, with his decision to join the National Guard.  Schwartz was wounded in a rocket propelled grenade attack while serving in Company B, 276th Engineer Battalion.

All of the Soldiers, Williamson, Richey, Corbett and Schwartz were members of 2nd Platoon, Company B during their last deployment.

“We’ve created a brotherhood, the Comanche Brotherhood, and it’s because of that you have these Soldiers who want to serve with each other and be there for each other in the thick of it,” says Capt. Beau Mason, of Fredericksburg, Va., commander of the 237th Engineer Company.

“I’m excited and happy,” Newton said when asked what his thoughts were about being the only Soldier in the brigade to be selected for a battlefield promotion. “I’m proud of my accomplishments and I think this can be greatly attributed to the excellent leadership I have had here in Third Platoon, Comanche Company.”

Third Platoon has developed an in-depth training plan to ensure that each Soldier is capable of doing every job in the patrol.  Newton attributes this plan and the close mentorship of Richey to being selected. 

“Sgt. Richey and I have had a close professional working relationship, and since he has been my truck commander, he’s been there to mentor me and help me no matter what,” Newton said.   

The 237th Engineer Company, which is more commonly referred to as Comanche Company, has been deployed to Baghdad since September 2007. Its primary mission is route clearance, where Soldiers clear main and alternate supply routes of roadside bombs.

“The accomplishments of Spc. Newton attest to the quality of Soldiers we have in Comanche Company,” said Mason.

For more information about the battlefield promotions, visit this link:


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