How a black-sheep Guard unit came home heroes
Many of us read the words of Capt Bout at "365 and a Wakeup"

His writings carried us through this story -- especially his moving writings of the deaths of Col Wood and Capt MacKinnon. Another truly gifted writer, giving us the upclose and personal look at our heroes. Inside his achieves is an incredible story

By César G. Soriano and Martin Kasindorf, USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — When the 685 men of a proud California Army National Guard battalion were mobilized more than a year ago for duty in Iraq, they expected to tangle with insurgents, and they did.

But these citizen-soldiers didn't expect a series of scandals and criminal charges on top of heavy casualties that nearly crushed their fighting spirit. They were investigated for abusing Iraqi detainees and lost two leaders in back-to-back roadside bombings — one being the highest-ranking U.S. officer killed in Iraq. From late 2004 through October 2005, the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment — nicknamed "The Night Stalkers" — was saddled with a reputation as the Bad News Bears of the U.S. military.

The hard-luck battalion came home Jan. 16 with a welcome from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who called the Guardsmen "true action heroes." They've resumed their civilian jobs as police officers, teachers and business executives after their 18-month tour. They now explain how they redeemed their reputation and point to a string of commendations as proof of heroism.

Posted by: Sherry 2006-03-19