|For Corvallis Unit, A Challenging, Hard Fought, Year
By Maj. Arnold V. Strong
March, 5, 2005
Taji, Iraq – In the last year, Corvallis's Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, has functioned as an infantry company in 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. The Seventh Cavalry has a long lineage and heritage. Both Col. George Custer (in Little Big Horn) and then Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam) commanded battalions in this regiment. It is a unit whose heritage Capt. Demian San Miguel, 27, of Corvallis, Ore., knows his company contributed significantly to.
"We left Kuwait, arrived here in Taji, were assigned to 2-7 Cav,” he explained “And within a day and a half we were outside the wire doing combat patrols, moving 100 miles an hour from day one in country.”
For San Miguel, a police officer in Corvallis, it was important to instantly dispel any negative impressions that this battalion may have had about the National Guard. “I know that the soldiers of this company not only met the standards of 2-7 Cav, they exceeded all of them.”
That statement is validated by their performance of duty. Through intense battles in Fallujah and An Najaf, elements of Bravo Company served as a battalion main effort, destroying insurgents, calling indirect fire with pinpoint accuracy, and proving themselves more than up to the task.
“This is the best company in the United States Army, regardless of component,” said First Sergeant Paul Warnock, 42, of Albany. “Bar none. It has been a tremendous honor to work with these fine soldiers. We made a major difference over the past year,” he said.
It is a contribution that has not come without significant costs. The company lost four of its soldiers to the enemy action and has sent home five of its soldiers with serious injuries.
When asked about the effect the losses had on his men, San Miguel hesitated, took a brief breath and sighed, “That is a very difficult question,” he said. “When we lost Spec. McKinley in June (of 2004), it was a huge shock to everyone. We all knew that it could happen, but when that IED struck us, none of us truly expected it. I don't think we were truly ready for the impact it would have on us.”
Over the course of three challenging months in summer of 2004, four soldiers were killed in action while serving with Bravo company were Specialist Eric McKinley, Staff Sergeant David Weisenberg, Specialist Isenberg, and Specialist Ken Leisten. Seriously injured and evacuated were Sgt. Shane Ward, Staff Sergeant Sean Davis, Sergeant First Class Vince Jacques, Specialist Benjamin Ring and 2nd Lieut. Peter Wood.
“But we learned from that experience and from the additional losses we had. These soldiers drove on and maintained their vigilance and kept going outside the wire. Every day these soldiers accomplished every task they were assigned,” he concluded.
“When soldiers see their friends die, it has a definitive effect on the entire organization,” said First Sergeant Warnock. “The initial instinct for these soldiers was anger. They wanted to go out and take vengeance on the insurgents that killed their friends, he continued, “And that is a critical difference between the active component and the National Guard. In the Regular Army, soldiers are lucky to know their peers for two years between assignments. The soldiers that we lost, we had deep family ties to, we all knew them for years. I knew two of the soldiers for over a decade. We had some soldiers that had known these men since second grade. They were best friends with these troops. It is difficult to manage your emotions in a situation like that.”
A major asset to the command was the support from the Chaplain and the Combat Stress Teams. “They helped out more than any of us can estimate,” Warnock explained. “Taking the guys off duty for even the brief time that they had, to talk about the events, their friends, and how it affected each of them, helped the guys to internalize what had happened but in a way that enabled them to drive on with the mission,” he finished.
In any conflict, your tactics evolve of the course of the war,” explained San Miguel. “We analyzed what happened and realized that the enemy focuses a lot on attacking mounted targets. We went back to FM 7-8 ( A field manual for infantry squad and platoon tactics), and retooled our fight toward dismounted operations,” he said.
“We became much more aggressive, looking for the trigger men, looking for the wire and evidence of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), he continued. “It has definitely paid off. Where early on we would identify maybe one in three bombs sites, now we find seven out of eight.”
“We have also seen a significant advantage in our conduct of Air Assault operations,” he offered. “No matter how well we armor our trucks, they still make a large audible signature. By air assaulting far to the West and moving in, we disrupt the enemy's rhythm. We catch him off guard. With soldiers on the ground, we are better able to see the bomb evidence and call in the explosive experts, destroying these bombs before they have the opportunity to further disrupt coalition forces. The enemy doesn't expect us to come in from above, or from the outside in.”
“Sure it is slower, but it is more methodical,” he explained. “But as a consequent, our soldiers are much safer and the roads and this country are more secure.”
“It has been a great honor to work with 2-7 Cavalry and to see the work we have accomplished over the past year,” said San Miguel. “We have sweat and bled together. We have conducted operations and conducted memorial services together. In the best of times, we have drunk near-beer and smoked cigars with these guys. My soldiers are very proud to have served with this distinguished regiment and to participate in the direct implementation of the total Army force.”
First Sergeant Warnock stated, “We could not have been as effective as we were over this challenging year, without the total support of the civilians back home. The families back home have been tremendous, but we had the total support of people back home, employers, patriotic groups, and private citizens. There was so much support it became impossible to thank each one of them individually. It was just amazing for us to see the tremendous support from private citizens doing everything they could to support the American Soldier,” he concluded.
Capt San Miguel and SFC Jackola – Bravo Company Commander explains the details of an early morning December mission to Sergeant First Class Jackola.
Calling up EOD – Capt. San Miguel calls forward the Explosive Ordnance Demolitions team to destroy an IED identified in the road.
Major Arnold V. Strong is the Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard. He is currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, reporting 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 to inform the citizens of Oregon on the accomplishments of the citizen-soldiers of the Oregon National Guard. He will return to Oregon with the battalion in March.
Capt Mike Braibish
503-584-3886, cell 503-932-5805