|Local residents ready for Iraq (234th Engineer Co. completes training, Next stop, Iraq)
Albany's Pfc. Danielle Poindexter, Pfc. Joshua Jordan, Lebanon's Pfc. Andrew Bledsoe, Brownsville's Sgt. Darron Wilson, and Scio's Staff Sgt. Joseph Gassner will deploy to the Middle East this week with the Oregon Army National Guard's 234th Engineer Company. The unit has been at Camp Shelby Joint Force Training Center in Mississippi for the last two months conducting intense training for their impending convoy security missions.
"We've spent the last eight weeks training on all the building blocks that go into making this unit ready for the mission we will conduct in Iraq," said Major Jeff Brown of Keizer, company commander. "We've covered individual soldier skills, crew drills, and specialized training for the environment we will face when we get there."
The 234th Eng. Co. is based in Warrenton, Ore. at Camp Rilea and has been at Camp Shelby since leaving Salem, Ore. on July 13, 2007. During their yearlong deployment, they will conduct convoy security operations throughout Iraq. The 180-person unit is composed of Soldiers from across Oregon as well as Soldiers from Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Washington, California, and Wyoming. They range from Military Police, cooks, mechanics, infantry, and engineers representing the Army's Engineer, Infantry, Ordnance, Military Intelligence, Artillery and Quartermaster branches.
The deploying unit is composed almost exclusively of Soldiers who volunteered for the Iraq tour. "I volunteered for this deployment so I could grow as a Soldier and be a stronger Soldier," said Poindexter, a gunner on a truck-mounted machine gun, adding that she sought the opportunity to gain experience.
During their two months of training at Camp Shelby, Soldiers rarely had a day off, working morning until night and every weekend in intensive field training included exercises in convoy operations, how to react to and prepare for improvised explosive devices, weapons use and maintenance, combat medicine, and much more. "I am extremely pleased," Brown said of his troops and the training, adding that every time his Soldiers reached a level of performance that he believed to be the best possible, "they take it up another notch." The unit is scheduled to return in Aug. 2008.
Courtesy US Army photos by 1st Lt. Victor Hoffer
AVAILABLE PHOTOS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING. SOME OR ALL HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY POSTED TO FLASHNEWS OR ATTACHED TO THIS RELEASE. TO REQUEST A SPECIFIC PHOTO BE RESENT, EMAIL Victor.Hoffer@mil.state.OR.us WITH THE REQUESTED PHOTOS AND THEY WILL BE EMAILED DIRECTLY.
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"Sgt. Chris Johnson of Portland inspects his truck-mounted M240B 7.62 mm machine gun in preparation for a convoy operation during the final stages of his Camp Shelby pre-deployment training."
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Pfc. Danielle Poindexter of Albany, Ore. keeps watch during final convoy training Tuesday at Camp Shelby. Poindexter, who volunteered for this deployment, is ordinarily a supply Soldier, but during this deployment has taken on the role of being in a gun turret. "You have a lot of adrenaline, and it's something that I never would [otherwise] be able to do," said Poindexter. "When I first joined the Army I never imagined myself being behind a gunner's turret."
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Specialist Christopher Seely of Portland, Ore. – who volunteered for this deployment a little over a month after returning from Afghanistan – looks to the convoy's front and side during a stop for a simulated IED. While designated Soldiers dismount and investigate as necessary, others keep a watch forward and beyond the sides of the road, insuring total protection of the convoy and the convoy's defenders. Training at Camp Shelby is realistic and full-speed, with explosive simulators, blank ammunitions, and surprises at each mission to keep Soldiers sharp and prepared for whatever they may face in Iraq.
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Included in the training is both off-road and on-road travel, just as the in-country mission will be. The 234 Engineer Co. will escort convoys throughout the country to insure that needed supplies reach their intended destinations safely. In order to prepare for this mission, they have completed nearly two months of intensive – usually six or even seven days a week – training and simulations.
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Sgt. Kenneth Helton of Keizer conducts 5- and 25-meter checks for improvised explosive devices around his humvee during convoy training at Camp Shelby.
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Specialist Jarod Berkham of Portland conducts a security check during convoy training at Camp Shelby.
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Specialist Robert Pinsky of Stayton conducts a security check during convoy training at Camp Shelby.
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Sgt. Kenneth Helton of Keizer scans the area around his vehicle for improvised explosive devices during convoy training at Camp Shelby.
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Members if the 234 Engineer Co. prepare to conduct a route clearance mission at Camp Shelby. The training is designed to be as realistic as possible for a training site and includes situations Soldiers are likely to face on the battlefield.
1st Lt. Victor Hoffer
Deputy Public Affairs Officer
Oregon Military Dept./Oregon Nat. Guard