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Press Release
April 15, 2008
Iraq Veterans Reunite For Peacekeeping Role
 
Story by Major Arnold V. Strong

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Five soldiers of the Oregon Army National Guard that previously served together in Iraq as part of the 1st Cavalry Division's Task Force Baghdad and in Operation Southern Relief in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, have reunited for duty in support of a United Nations (UN) peace support operations training mission in Bangladesh.

The soldiers, who served together within the "Volunteers," of 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Oregon Army National Guard, in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 are part of a team of eight soldiers and airmen selected for their expertise to support Exercise Shanti Doot-2 (Ambassador of Peace). The exercise trains platoons from 10 nations in tasks they are most likely to encounter on UN missions around the world.

"It is great to reunite with my brothers from Iraq," said Sgt. 1st Class Phillip "Vinni" Jacques of Albany. "It is an incredible opportunity to be working with so many soldiers from so many nations, knowing that we may be directly responsible for the professional performance of their duties in trouble spots around the globe like West Africa (where two of the platoons are scheduled to deploy immediately after the exercise)," he said. "It is incredible to be at the cutting edge of such an important mission," he concluded.

The team, led by Lt. Col. Ed Tanguy, of Cottage Grove, Ore., is serving as the command and control element of the training event being held for the second time at the Bangladesh Institute for Peace Support Operations Training or BIPSOT, a major UN certified training facility north of Dhaka, the capitol of Bangladesh.

"We bring a unique mindset and experience base as members of the National Guard," said Tanguy, the Field Training Exercise (FTX) commander. "The similarities between our hometown emergency response and peace support operations are a good match."

Capt. Peter Aguilar, of Eugene, is a police officer back home. His experience both in Iraq and as part of the Eugene Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) have augmented his role as the chief of operations for the exercise. Trained in the tactics of emergency response and consequence management, he brings a diverse skill set to this mission.

"I am amazed at the quality of troops in this operation," Aguilar said. "The fact that we can teach the standards these soldiers are likely to implement while learning from the experience of such a diverse group of leaders from this region is a great honor," he said.

The group is being augmented by a group of senior Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) from U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), headquartered in Fort Shafter, Hawaii. Directly participating in the training is a platoon from the U.S. Army's 8th Military Police Brigade, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

The group from the Oregon Guard was personally requested by USARPAC after their stalwart performance in a similar exercise, titled "Khan Quest," in Mongolia in 2006.

The exercise is divided into two elements. The Command Post Exercise (CPX), held at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Dhaka, predominantly involved senior officers and was a computer driven exercise designed to test the strategic planning and execution of a major UN operation in the fictional island nation of "Pacifica."

The FTX is being held at the remote BIPSOT compound 30 miles north of Dhaka in the jungles of Rajendrapur, deep within a National Forest Preserve. The Oregon team is providing overall command and control of the exercise, mentoring their Bangladesh Armed Forces counterparts, while supervising the training and evaluation of platoons from 10 nations, including Bangladesh, the Sultanate of Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, South Korea, Tonga and the United States.

"Peacekeeping is an entirely different spectrum of operations. While the tactics are often similar, the strategy is very different," said Master Sgt. Phillip Highwood of Springfield. "Peace operations are a lot more complex and difficult than combat operations," he added.

Two fellow Army Guard members join the reunited veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom's Task Force Volunteer. Capt. Michael Swartz, of Grant's Pass, and Sgt. 1st Class Debby O'Donnell of Albany, and Air National Guard 1st Lieut. Michael Odle, of Redding, Calif. Swartz, who previously served with the Washington Army National Guard, also served in Iraq during the same period as his peers.

Odle, who had served as a public affairs officer alongside several of the same soldiers in New Orleans in the wake of hurricanes, has been the team chief of public affairs, teaching interview techniques to the platoon leaders of each of the nations, supervising international media, and encouraging all members to get their stories told.

"Each of these troops brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from their parts of the world and the missions they have been involved with in the past," Odle said. "Knowing that my counterpart and I were able to help them articulate the importance of their mission and the contributions they make toward peace in the world has been the experience of a lifetime," he added.

O'Donnell, the unit personnel officer, manages all reporting, correspondence and personnel tracking. "Seeing the troops from all of these nations and how they train for operations has been exciting. However, I have to say, preparing certificates of achievement for the soldiers of Bangladesh that volunteered their time and energy has been the most rewarding experience for me, so far. But, we still have another week to go," she concluded.

"Bringing together this team enabled us to deploy a group of knowledgeable experts to this strategic mission," said Tanguy. "We have truly bonded as a team and shown our allies the value the National Guard brings to today's expeditionary military environment," he concluded.

The exercise, currently in its third and final phase, will end on Apr. 20. The former "Volunteers" include Lt Col. Tanguy, Capt. Aguilar, Sgt. 1st Class Jacques, Master Sgt. Phillip Highwood, and Maj. Arnold Strong, of Salem. They will return to Oregon after the conclusion of the exercise.

Photos:

DSC0712 Oregon Army National Guard Lt. Col. Edward Tanguy, III, of Cottage Grove, oversees the actions on the objective of the convoy operations lane in Rajendrapur, Bangladesh, as several local villagers watch the exercise.

Photo Credit: Capt. Peter Aguilar

AVS-1781: Sgt. 1st Class Phillip "Vinni" Jacques oversees an after action review as soldiers of the Indian Ghurka Regiment listen to the lead trainer at the Bangladesh Institute for Peace Support Operation Training in Rajendrapur, Bangladesh.

Photo Credit: Major Arnold V. Strong

AVS-1530: Oregon Air National Guard 1st Lieut. Mike Odle facilitates an interview with Al-Jazeera Television with Indonesian 1st Lieut. Briand Prang.

Photo Credit: Major Arnold V. Strong

AVS-3361: Maj. Arnold Strong watches as a Nepalese platoon evacuates their "wounded" during Exercise Shanti Doot, in Rajendrapur, Bangladesh.