|Just in from Major Arnold Strong in Iraq
Major Arnold V. Strong, the State Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard is currently in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, 39th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Divison. He has sent out an update on the actions of A Company. You will find his story and photos attached for your use.
He will continue to forward stories and photos for the next several weeks until he returns to Oregon with the soldiers from 2-162 Infantry Battalion.
As you read his most recent story, you can see how, although scheduled to return to Oregon in the near future, these soldiers continue to address the enemy.
Alpha Company with the Marines
February 17, 2005
Yusifiyah, Iraq – Six Roadside bombs. Three days. No casualties. An enemy on the run is a good enemy. A sure sign that the insurgency is on the run and the coalition is continuing its progress. Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, of the Oregon National Guard is currently attached to the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, a Marine Corps Reserve unit that can relate to the citizen-soldiers of Oregon in more ways than as foot soldiers. Since the day these soldiers have arrived in the sector, they have been in contact with a hidden enemy. In the past three days, six of the company’s vehicles have been struck by Improvised Explosive Devices. In a testament to the strength of the equipment they are fielded with and the training they have borne by experience, none of the soldiers have been injured in the attacks. All but one of the vehicles, after a brief term in the maintenance shop, has been returned to the line.
Led by Capt. Eric Riley, 35, of Roseburg, Ore., and Sgt. Maj. Randall Mefford, 42, of Medford, Ore., Alpha Company is a unique element of the Volunteer battalion. True volunteers, the great majority of this unit are not native to the battalion but volunteered as augmentees from the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry out of Southern Oregon and 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry out of the Portland area. Many of these soldiers have already served on Active Duty since September 11th, 2001, either as peacekeepers in the Sinai Peninsula, with the Multinational Force and Observers mission of 2002 or as ground infantry in Operations Iraqi Freedom I in 2003. When the chance to again serve in combat alongside their fellow Oregon Guardsmen came, hundreds of Oregon citizen soldiers volunteered to join the fight. This company is a shining example of that Volunteer spirit.
For most of the soldiers in this unit, the change in pace from Baghdad is refreshing and an opportunity to close this deployment on the high point of targeting the enemy and destroying the resistance of the insurgency in the last few weeks they serve as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
“At least it doesn’t smell like burning garbage and raw sewage out here,” said Lieutenant Michael “Corey” Jones, 27, of Grant’s Pass, Ore., of the change from urban sprawl to rural farmland on the first day the unit served here in the Babel province, south of Baghdad. By the end of the third night here, his assessment was far more direct. “Forget the IEDs. It is just a sign of how desperate these guys are. I want to go house to house, tell these people that we are here to find the bad guys and I want to get these guys that are killing our trucks and trying to kill us,” he said to a dark room full of battle hardened noncommissioned officers. “This is where it’s at,” he told his squad leaders. “This is the best place to be for all of us right now. It is the last chance we have to get the bad guys, tell these people that we mean business and that we are not going to tolerate their nonsense,” he concluded.
The company has been doing just that. In taking the fight to the enemy, they are moving, platoon by platoon, building by building, room by room, mounted in HMMWVs or dismounted on foot through thick marsh-filled farm lands, across this rural landscape; establishing their presence and informing the local farmers and village merchants of their purpose: to stop the insurgency that is exploiting the people of Iraq, to confiscate the means to destroy coalition forces and to capture or destroy the terrorists. It is a purpose that these soldiers take very seriously. Eight of their brothers in arms have made their final journey home since this battalion arrived in Iraq last year and with six roadside bombs detonated in the past three days, many of these war weary troops want to destroy the enemy with extreme prejudice, move themselves and their equipment North for the final withdrawal from Iraq and get home to their families, friends and communities in the next month.
“It is clear that we have the enemy on the run,” said Capt. Riley. “I just returned from the (Marine) battalion command and they want all of us to know that, as dangerous as it has been in the past days, this is a sign of the desperation of these insurgents that their only method of attack is with these IEDs,” he said in describing a meeting with the staff and commander of the 2-24 Marines. “Beside all of that, you need to remind your men of the great work they are doing. This is the best way we could possibly close out this deployment, and your men are doing a fantastic job,” he concluded.
The little things seem to make this trip more tolerable, if not enjoyable. Last night, the platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon, Sgt. 1st First Class Shannon Compton, 38, of Roseburg, Ore., brought a special gift from the 2-24th Marine Battalion Commander. On a resupply mission to the battalion’s headquarters, Sgt. Compton picked up crates of potatoes, green peppers and onions, boxes of frozen hot dogs, buns and cases of condiments for an old fashioned hot dog roast. In the courtyard of the bombed out former police station that has become home to these citizen-soldiers and Marine reservists, Sgt. Compton and his noncommissioned officers made a feast to write home about. “This is awesome,” said Specialist Baldwin, 25, of Salem, Ore., “This is the first hot meal we’ve had in about a week. And it was good,” he paused. “Awesome.”
Riley Call For Fire
Dismounts to the bldg
Major Arnold V. Strong is the Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard. He is currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, to report on the actions of the Oregon National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom II, as part of the Global War on Terror. He will continue to send regular updates over the course of the next several weeks to inform the citizens of Oregon about the accomplishments of the citizen-soldiers of the Oregon National Guard. He will return to Oregon with the unit in March.
State Deputy Public Affairs Officer
Oregon National Guard
503-584-3917, cell 503-931-5179