When 9/11 hit, Scott Eberlein was a Hollywood actor starring in TV shows and films such as “The X-Files,” “Nash Bridges” and “L.A. Confidential.” The closest he got to the military was playing the role of a sergeant in the TV series “The Army Show.”
But the terrorist attack got him thinking about the cost of freedom. He was set on defending it at all costs. On Sept. 12, Eberlein, then 33, went to the nearest army recruiting station and signed up.
Fast forward 19 years and Maj. Eberlein has been named a “Hero of the Battlefield.”
But Eberlein is quick to point out that his award is not for combat. It recognizes duties that he thinks many people don’t realize soldiers do.
Eberlein, a company commander in the Army’s 416th Civil Affairs Battalion on Camp Pendleton, was recognized for his efforts to train soldiers during a simulated conflict exercise on how to mitigate the effects of combat on civilians, in other words, safeguard civilians, at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La.
Eberlein demonstrated how he works to keep civilians out of harm’s way in combat situations and guides them away from inadvertently hindering operations.
The exercises Eberlein was involved in focused on how Civil Affairs personnel can help, for example, by locating the routes of evacuating civilians in an area of conflict so they are not caught in the middle of combat.
The award recognized “Maj. Eberlein’s professionalism and dedication to duty ensured innocent civilians were protected and civil concerns did not hinder military operations.”
Eberlein was among those who received the award at the Joint Readiness Training Center on Oct. 29, while he was loaned to the 426th Battalion, during training exercises for light infantry. The training included military combat scenarios preparing U.S. and allied troops for worldwide deployment while building comradeship.
Eberlein credits the Civil Affairs company he was a part of for the recognition.
“It is rare for a nonlethal effects unit or individual to get this kind of award,” said Eberlein, a North County resident.
“I think the public needs to know what lengths the U.S. Army goes to in order to protect civilians,” Eberlein said. “I don’t think many people know about this side of the Army.”
Eberlein has been deployed on numerous missions, including to Iraq and Afghanistan and more recently to Poland and Guatamala. He and his troops work with host nation authorities, international organizations such as WHO, Doctors without Borders, USAID, and Special Operations Forces, of which he has been a part.
Five years after joining the Army, Eberlein, then age 38, graduated from the elite Army Ranger School. He knew he had found his calling. In 2005, he took a commission as an officer.
Eberlein has no plans to go back to Hollywood. “I wasn’t contributing to the country the way I wanted,” he said.
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