Friday, December 09, 2011

Kuwait: Minnesota Army National Guard members supporting the drawdown

By Army National Guard 1st Lt. Travis Tomford
Minnesota National Guard

CAMP VIRGINA, Kuwait  - With Dec. 31 just around the corner, the logistical drawdown and troop withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq is well underway and Minnesota Army National Guard members are on front lines of that task.

Providing huge assistance to the U.S. effort during what will likely be the last phase of Operation New Dawn are the Soldiers of Delta “Drifter” Company of the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor (1-194 CAB), 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division.

“It is an honor to be here now and provide the support needed to facilitate the drawdown,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Gamble, the 1st Platoon sergeant currently on his second tour in the Middle East.

“Historically speaking, we are right in the middle of something big,” he said. “Our footprints will be one of the last made by U.S. forces in Iraq, and looking back 30 or 40 years from now, that is something we will be able to tell our children and grandchildren. We all take great pride in that.”

As the number of troops leaving Iraq daily continues to increase, so too does the amount of equipment they are bringing south to Kuwait with them.

Delta Company has been tasked with providing security support for convoys transporting the equipment troops have used throughout the war into neighboring Kuwait.

“This is no small task,” said Army 1st Lt. Christopher Bingham, the 3rd Platoon leader. “In the past ten years, there has been a massive amount of equipment collected throughout Iraq, and we want to be sure we bring with us anything serviceable and not waste taxpayer money.”

Although the end of the war in Iraq is in sight, the Soldiers recognize the presence of danger still exists. Therefore, they continue to remain vigilant and determined to bring everyone home safe.

“The job doesn’t end until every last Soldier is back home in the arms of their loved ones,” said Army Capt. Ryan Rossman, the Delta Company commander. “What the Soldiers from the 1-194 CAB have done these past four months in Kuwait and Iraq is remarkable, but we will not lose sight of our ultimate goal of returning home with everyone.”

At Camp Virginia, a base just south of the Iraqi border where a majority of the 600-plus Soldiers from the 1-194 CAB are currently stationed, the effects of the troop withdrawal from Iraq are clearly evident.

Camp Virginia, along with other U.S. bases throughout Kuwait, has received an influx of Soldiers who were previously stationed in Iraq. This is because most of the 40,000 troops who were previously in Iraq must pass through Kuwait before they can head home.

 However, though the bases in Kuwait may currently be packed with U.S. forces, this likely will not last for long. “With most of the units passing through expecting to be home before the holidays, things should slow down around here pretty quick,” Bingham said.

 Regardless of what is asked of the Drifters, they will continue to perform their duties to the utmost of professionalism that has been displayed thus far throughout the deployment.

Finally, no Soldier will lose sight of the mission and what needs to be accomplished here. Only once have they all boarded the plane home and arrive safely will each them be able to rest peacefully knowing they have done their part to ensure the mission in Iraq is complete.

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