National Guard July 2011 : Page 28

Still in Iraq By Lt. Col. Robert A. Preiss Operation New Dawn no longer draws big headlines, but the mission continues and the Guard remains a crucial player S THE CLOCK ticks down to the end of the year and the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the citizen-soldiers and airmen of the National Guard are playing key roles in Operation New Dawn. Today, roughly 8,000 Guards-men make up almost one-fifth of the American troops in Iraq. Guardsmen provide security for convoys. They clear roads of impro-vised explosive devices (IEDs). They own the Army aviation mission and train Iraqi police and military mem-bers. This has been a Guard-heavy mis-sion since 2003 and the invasion to depose of Saddam Hussein. It remains that way today. Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, the acting director of the Army National Guard, visited the troops in April and A told them, “We are all proud of you and we promise to keep fighting for the needs of our soldiers.” F ORCE P ROTECTION While overall attacks have de-creased, Iraq remains a hostile fire area. U.S. bases receive indirect fire, and con-voys continue to be attacked by IEDs. Two Puerto Rico Army Guard sol-diers, Staff Sgt. José Cintron Rosado and Sgt. José Delgado Arroyo, were killed by an IED in January while con-ducting a route clearance patrol. Their company was attached to the Wisconsin Army Guard’s 724th En-gineer Battalion, which also included sappers from the Pennsylvania Army Guard, as well as active-component and Reserve engineer units. Route clearance is a tough mission. By the time the battalion redeployed, it had awarded nine Purple Hearts. The Army Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team serves as the U.S. security-force brigade in Iraq. Its soldiers from Idaho, Montana and Oregon execute a broad variety of force protection missions under the leadership of Col. Guy Thomas. This includes conducting armed escort of long convoys of military and civilian trucks. The danger of the mission is told in the seven brigade soldiers who received Purple Hearts in their first four months in the country. Sgt. Kelly Skurupey, a truck commander in the Montana Guard, deployed to Iraq a few years ago when the war was at its peak with 200,000 U.S. troops in the country. He was an active-component soldier then. “Things were a lot more aggres-sive back then,” he says. “Attacks have balanced out in accordance with the amount of troops out here. Even if there isn’t much talk of what’s hap-pening in Iraq anymore back home, we’re still here doing our jobs.” The brigade also provides the garrison command for three critical installations with responsibility for all aspects of support services, as well 28 | Na tional Guard

Still in Iraq

By Lt. Col. Robert A. Preiss

Operation New Dawn no longer draws big headlines, but the mission continues and the Guard remains a crucial player<br /> <br /> AS THE CLOCK ticks down to the end of the year and the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the citizen-soldiers and airmen of the National Guard are playing key roles in Operation New Dawn.<br /> <br /> Today, roughly 8,000 Guardsmen make up almost one-fifth of the American troops in Iraq.<br /> <br /> Guardsmen provide security for convoys. They clear roads of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They own the Army aviation mission and train Iraqi police and military members.<br /> <br /> This has been a Guard-heavy mission since 2003 and the invasion to depose of Saddam Hussein. It remains that way today.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, the acting director of the Army National Guard, visited the troops in April and told them, "We are all proud of you and we promise to keep fighting for the needs of our soldiers."<br /> <br /> FORCE PROTECTION<br /> <br /> While overall attacks have decreased, Iraq remains a hostile fire area. U.S. bases receive indirect fire, and convoys continue to be attacked by IEDs.<br /> <br /> Two Puerto Rico Army Guard soldiers, Staff Sgt. José Cintron Rosado and Sgt. José Delgado Arroyo, were killed by an IED in January while conducting a route clearance patrol.<br /> <br /> Their company was attached to the Wisconsin Army Guard's 724th Engineer Battalion, which also included sappers from the Pennsylvania Army Guard, as well as active-component and Reserve engineer units.<br /> <br /> Route clearance is a tough mission. By the time the battalion redeployed, it had awarded nine Purple Hearts.<br /> <br /> The Army Guard's 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team serves as the U.S. security-force brigade in Iraq. Its soldiers from Idaho, Montana and Oregon execute a broad variety of force protection missions under the leadership of Col. Guy Thomas.<br /> <br /> This includes conducting armed escort of long convoys of military and civilian trucks. The danger of the mission is told in the seven brigade soldiers who received Purple Hearts in their first four months in the country.<br /> <br /> Sgt. Kelly Skurupey, a truck commander in the Montana Guard, deployed to Iraq a few years ago when the war was at its peak with 200,000 U.S. troops in the country. He was an active-component soldier then.<br /> <br /> "Things were a lot more aggressive back then," he says. "Attacks have balanced out in accordance with the amount of troops out here. Even if there isn't much talk of what's happening in Iraq anymore back home, we're still here doing our jobs."<br /> <br /> The brigade also provides the garrison command for three critical installations with responsibility for all aspects of support services, as well as base defense and force protection for thousands of civilian and military personnel.<br /> <br /> One special mission belongs to the personal security detachment from the Idaho Guard. It provides security for high-ranking officials, both military and civilian, who visit the still-dangerous country.<br /> <br /> "Our responsibility is the protection of some very important people," says 1st Lt. Adam Rios. He said the unit averages almost three missions per week, but some days include multiple missions.<br /> <br /> The Guard generally owns this vast and complex security-force mission in Iraq. The 116th Cavalry took over the mission from the Louisiana Army Guard's 256th Infantry Brigade last year and will hand it over to the Army Guard's 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from Kentucky and several other states later this year.<br /> <br /> Regarding the IED problem, the New York Army Guard's 501st Ordnance Battalion arrived in early 2011. As part of Joint Task Force Troy, it commands two active-component companies.<br /> <br /> The Ohio Guard supplies the defense for bases that come under indirect fire.<br /> <br /> The 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery, recently became the first Guard battalion to man the counter-rocket and mortar system, a high-tech system that uses a variety of sensors to detect incoming indirect fire attacks, warn troops and, at some locations, direct a 20mm Phalanx gun system to destroy the incoming rounds before they hit.<br /> <br /> AIR GUARD IN IRAQ<br /> <br /> The Air Guard provides important capabilities to the mission in Iraq across a range of functions. Firefighters from the Wyoming Air Guard have protected Joint Base Balad.<br /> <br /> In 2010, the South Carolina Air Guard's 169th Fighter Wing flew F- 16s in support of operations in Iraq. At Sather Air Force Base, adjacent to the Baghdad airport, the security-force mission has long been executed by rotating elements of Guard airmen.<br /> <br /> In the spring, base defense and entry control for Sather Air Base in Iraq was being provided by Air National Guard members from security forces squadrons out of Delaware, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.<br /> <br /> IRAQI SECURITY FORCES<br /> <br /> The primary focus of U.S. Forces in Iraq now is to advise, train, assist and equip the Iraqi police and armed forces so that they can maintain security within the country's borders and develop the capability to defend against external threats.<br /> <br /> The 36th Infantry Division headquarters from the Texas Army National Guard is one of three U.S. divisions currently operating in Iraq. As U.S. Division-South, it is responsible for the nine southern provinces of Iraq.<br /> <br /> Based near the economically important city of Basrah, the division commander, Maj. Gen. Eddy M. Spurgin, commands three active-component brigades from Fort Hood, Texas.<br /> <br /> Additionally, Spurgin and his two deputy commanders, Brig. Gen. William "Len" Smith and Brig. Gen. Stephen Sanders, maintain an intensive schedule of direct, one-on-one engagements with key leaders in the Iraqi security forces, as well as the broader civilian and business community.<br /> <br /> The Iraqi government has organized a part of its internal security efforts through seven regional operational commands. U.S. military teams, known as operational partnership teams (OPT), are co-located with the commands to provide advice and assistance.<br /> <br /> Within the U.S. Division-South area, at the Mid-Euphrates Operational Command (MeOC), a team of American military advisors, led and largely staffed by Guard soldiers, is engaged in the daily effort to advise and assist the region's senior Iraqi army and police leadership.<br /> <br /> The MeOC operates checkpoints, conducts patrols, searches for terrorists and supports civilian authorities and organizations in the five provinces.<br /> <br /> Col. David Greenwood of the Oregon Army National Guard leads the OPT, which trains, advises and assists the MeOC staff in order to conduct, track and report counter-insurgency operations.<br /> <br /> His joint team of 24 service members and civilians includes National Guardsmen from seven states.<br /> <br /> The Guard leads and staffs similar teams in Basrah and Mosul.<br /> <br /> COUNTERTERRORISM OPERATIONS<br /> <br /> The U.S. military no longer conducts unilateral counterterrorism operations in Iraq. American special operations troops maintain pressure on violent extremist organizations by partnering with Iraqi counterparts.<br /> <br /> The U.S. Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula (CJSOTF-AP) guides and mentors units such as the Iraqi Special Operations Force Brigade of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, and the Emergency Response Brigade (ERB) of the Ministry of Interior.<br /> <br /> Utah Army Guard soldiers from the Group Support Company of the 19th Special Forces Group have played a central role by strengthening the Iraqi special operations capability, from the servicing of task force vehicles to more subtle and complex work such as detention and interrogation operations.<br /> <br /> ESSENTIAL ENABLERS<br /> <br /> With a continuing threat of attack on the ground, movement by air is critical in Iraq. This falls to the California Army Guard's 40th Combat Aviation Brigade.<br /> <br /> From his headquarters in Taji, Col. Mitchell Medigovich leads seven aviation battalions, including one active component, one Army Reserve and five from the Guard, which is a force of more than 3,000 soldiers from 22 states.<br /> <br /> That includes Chief Warrant Officer 4 Wayne Wade, a pilot with the Mississippi Army Guard's 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 185th Aviation. He is on his third deployment to Iraq, including one during the initial invasion.<br /> <br /> "I looked at one of my journals from that time a while back and saw that it was several weeks into flying missions before there was an entry of 'Didn't get shot at today,'" he says.<br /> <br /> He has noticed a "normalcy" during his third deployment, and says, "The people in the country seem to be moving forward."<br /> <br /> The 77th Theater Aviation Brigade headquarters from the Arkansas Army Guard recently arrived to help share the aviation load.<br /> <br /> Information and intelligence is a critical asset in counterinsurgency and stability operations. For the past year, the Nebraska Army Guard's 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB) has provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of all U.S. forces in Iraq.<br /> <br /> The 67th is the first multi-component BfSB to deploy overseas. While the headquarters and support company are from Nebraska, the brigade includes the 67th Network Support Company from the Montana Army Guard, the 141st Military Intelligence Battalion from the Utah Army Guard, a military intelligence battalion from the Army Reserve and two active-component aviation task forces.<br /> <br /> Brigade soldiers often operate with other outfits, remote from their parent units. It is a demanding mission requiring cultural knowledge, language skills and technical ability.<br /> <br /> Last month, the Guard's 219th BfSB from Indiana and other states took over the mission.<br /> <br /> THE DEPARTURE OF U.S. FORCES<br /> <br /> Iraq is making steady progress on the path toward being a stable, secure and sovereign nation. Civil capacity is increasing. The Iraqi security forces are growing stronger, and violent extremist networks are under such effective pressure that security incidents are at the lowest point in years.<br /> <br /> The current agreement is that U.S. forces will depart Iraq by Dec. 31. At that point, only a limited cadre of military personnel within an Office of Security Cooperation will remain to help Iraq with equipping and training.<br /> <br /> But until that day arrives, Guard forces figure to continue to play a crucial role in the American mission.<br /> <br /> Lt. Col Robert A. Preiss is deputy chief of the Office of National Guard Affairs in Iraq. This story was augmented with reporting from the Guard journalists in Iraq.<br /> <br /> "Even if there isn't much talk of what's happening in Iraq anymore back home, we're still here doing our jobs."<br /> <br /> –Sgt. Kelly Skurupey Montana Army National Guard <br />

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