CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- A ground intelligence officer assigned to Battalion Landing Team 3/6, the ground combat element of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), was honored recently with the Colonel Donald G. Cook Award for his outstanding performance in support of combat operations in Afghanistan. Capt. Ryan A. Pyke, BLT 3/6's intelligence officer, received the award at a National Military Intelligence Association banquet May 19 in northern Virginia for his work while deployed to the Kandahar International Airport in southern Afghanistan. The award, which celebrates the life, patriotic dedication, professional excellence and personal sacrifice of Colonel Cook, a superb Marine Corps intelligence officer who died while in captivity while a Prisoner of War in Vietnam in 1967, is presented annually to a member of the intelligence community whose actions best emulate Col. Donald G. Cook. Pyke, who joined Camp Lejeune's 2d Intelligence Battalion in November 2000 and the 26th MEU (SOC) in November 2001, demonstrated outstanding leadership and superb tactical intelligence expertise during Exercise Unified Endeavor in 2000 and, most notably, with BLT 3/6 during Operation Enduring Freedom. "I didn't know that I was being nominated," said Pyke, a native of Clarkston, Mich. He was pleasantly surprised in February when his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jerome Lynes, called him into his office aboard the USS Bataan and promptly held out the phone saying, "The general wants to speak to you." On the phone was Brig. Gen. Michael Ennis, Director of Intelligence for the Marine Corps. Lynes said that he wanted Pyke to hear of his nomination for the award from Ennis personally. "He [Ennis] told me [about the award] and I was flabbergasted," Pyke said. "I didn't know what to say [at that point], since I was so surprised." Although the award recognizes many of his achievements before Operation Enduring Freedom, the citation states that his actions in Afghanistan were instrumental to the mission's success. "While I was at Lejeune, I found out the battalion was looking for a captain to augment [BLT 3/6]," he said. "With a potential assault into Afghanistan on the horizon, they needed extra personnel to bolster the intelligence component of the BLT staff." "I was one of many captains [to volunteer] for the position," he said. "It just so happened that I was one of the ones chosen to go. I arrived aboard the Bataan in late November with some other augments, including a detachment of my ground sensor Marines." When Pyke arrived on the USS Bataan, he had a steep learning curve to surmount as he had precious little time to educate himself on how these Marines and this battalion operated. Less than three weeks after his arrival, he deployed with the battalion ashore into Kandahar. Although Pyke did not go in with the initial waves of Marines across the beach, he soon would get his chance to contribute to the fight. "I was called later to go in," he said. "I came into Kandahar and assumed the duties as the intelligence officer for the battalion." From day one, he was knee-deep in the intricacies of the battalion's operational plan and the myriad of missions of which they were involved so that he could provide them the necessary intelligence support they so desperately needed. "All I cared about was doing my job," Pyke said. "I didn't want to let the battalion or my peers down." Now able to reflect upon his real-world experiences in Afghanistan, one specific incident stood prominently in his memory. "I would say one of the high points for me was the night [Jan. 10] we had the firefight in Kandahar," he explained. "As soon as we started taking fire, everyone jumped right into position, right where they needed to be, whether it was line company Marines out on the perimeter or the commanding officer and his battle staff inside the COC. It went like a well-oiled machine." Pyke was with the operations section at the map boards plotting incoming enemy fire so they could estimate the size of forces they were up against. "All the long hours of training before coming to Afghanistan paid off [that night]," Pyke said. As for the challenges of his job, Pyke recalled the most difficult hurdle for him was among the most basic -- being the new guy. "I had to build relationships extremely fast in order to provide the type of support I needed to give," he said. Pyke, now a member of 2d Intelligence Battalion following the MEU's return to the United States April 18, said that he looks forward to serving with another MEU in the near future. This time, he quips, he'll meet them at the starting line vice just before the victory circle.