FORT BRAGG, NC – Perhaps the best accolade Sgt. 1st Class Robert Foley received in being named Civil Affairs Medic of the Year was the nomination itself. Foley was nominated not by his battalion, the 98th CA Battalion, but by his peer in a Civil Affairs Team, a team sergeant from a 91st CA Battalion Civil Affairs Team.
Foley was assigned to fill a CA Team’s medic slot in 91st CA Battalion’s D Company when it deployed to Afghanistan in February. When the company redeployed in August, Foley returned to the 98th CA Battalion, where he first assigned in 2007.
The chronic shortage of medics due to the rapid expansion of the 95th CA Brigade since 2006 has resulted in medics being moved between battalions to fill this essential position on four-Soldier Civil Affairs teams being deployed throughout the world.
As evidenced by the nomination narrative submitted by his team sergeant, however, Foley had no problem into quickly becoming a successful member of his team:[Sgt. 1st Class Foley] “…provided medical coverage in over 100 combat missions for both his Civil Affairs Team (CAT) and an Operation Detachment-Alpha (ODA) Team in a span of only six months…. [he] served as the medical coverage [for]…the ODA, CAT, and regular Army forces. While deployed he performed six aero-medical evacuations in which he provided the initial treatment and life saving care [to] over ten critically injured Coalition soldiers and Afghan National Security Forces. His technical ability proved instrumental in the management of limited medical resources despite serving in a remote area of Afghanistan while still providing medical care to 237 Afghan National Police, ODA, and CAT operators. In addition he spearheaded the medical training for the Afghan Local Police within the [Kandahar Province]… area which greatly enhanced their effectiveness.
Foley was also cited for his performance under fire, when a team interpreter and the team sergeant of the ODA he worked with were critically wounded by a large IED during a clearing operation. According to CAT team sergeant, Foley “quickly and without hesitation ran fifty meters through a field saturated with IED’s and under fire to administer aid” and safely transport the interpreter to the next level of medical care.”
“I didn’t do more than anyone else,” Foley said. “We had a good team—our team leader, team sergeant, Civil Affairs NCO, guys in the ODA—everyone was really professional. Even if you had a down day, you go out and do the job.”
Foley said he had no problems getting in step with his new CA teammates. “I knew some from the schoolhouse [the JFK Special Warfare Center and School] and from just being an NCO. We did our train-ups with them, our PMT [Pre-Mission Training]. The CA brigade is a small community and so we all know or know about each other.”
Foley was presented his Civil Affairs Medic of the Year award during the annual Special Operations Medical Association conference in Tampa, Florida in early December. Finalists in the other USASOC Medic of the Year categories were also recognized: Special Forces Medic Sgt. 1st Class David Costa of 3rd Special Forces Group and Special Operations Combat Medic Staff Sgt. Roberto Sevilla of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
According to Col. (Dr.) Peter Benson, U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s command surgeon, this is the first year that a Civil Affairs Medic award is being awarded. “CA operations are often not as combat intense as some other Special Operations, but the CA category is absolutely warranted, to show fidelity to their assigned roles as CA medical sergeants,” Benson said.
Benson headed the award selection board, which consisted also of his deputy surgeon and senior USASOC NCO’s. “It was sergeants picking the sergeants who best represented the medical specialties inside USASOC,” Benson said.
The board received about 30 nominations from all USASOC commands, from commanding officers, first sergeants and team leaders. Benson said that the board members read the nominations several times and asked the commands for additional information. “The board members sought follow-up information to make sure these submissions truly represented the best medical NCOs within the Command,” Benson said.
Asked why he thought Foley was selected, Benson said it was a combination of skills. “Actions under fire, combat trauma skills, VSO (village stability operations) skills, and being able to perform as a ‘360-degree’ CA medic. Doing exactly what he’s supposed to do in the most professional way.”
“He was the backbone of the team,” said the team sergeant who nominated Foley for the award. “During my time in the Civil Affairs community, I’ve seen our medics do great things during deployments, yet most of their hard work goes practically unnoticed within the SOF community. I felt SFC Foley was one of those medics that deserved at least the chance to be noticed.”
In describing Foley as a person, the sergeant commented, “He is laid back and soft spoken, has great sense of humor. He’d give his right hand to help a teammate out, but I think what’s most impressive about Sgt. 1st Class Foley is that he’s a proud family man.”
Foley, who calls Utah his home state, is married and has four children.