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Home : News
NEWS | March 1, 2012

Guard exhibit, artifacts to tell 9/11-era Guard story

By Army National Guard Sgt. Darron Salzer National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - With the final crossing of troops from Iraq into Kuwait, Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn are finding a new home - in museums.

As Camp Victory was closing, one National Guard officer took it upon himself to preserve a piece of the Guard's history during the Iraq War - a sign that hung outside his office building, showing the jointness of the war effort.

Army Col. Robert Preiss, Army National Guard representative, Reserve Forces Policy Board, was then a member of the National Guard Affairs staff for U.S. Forces-Iraq when he recognized the sign's historical value.

"When the decision came down in Iraq to begin the closure of the Camp Victory complex, the entire USFI staff was going to be moved to different locations," Preiss said. "When we were packing up our office, I looked at the sign and thought it would be a shame for it to end up in the trash since it was sort of an iconic item connecting the National Guard to Iraq."

The National Guard Affairs team at U.S. Forces-Iraq Headquarters was a group of National Guard Soldiers that were a part of the staff of U.S. Forces-Iraq.

Preiss said their main mission was to advise the USFI commander - a four-star general - and his senior staff on matters pertaining to Guard units in his theatre.

"We also had performed a liaison function between U.S. Forces-Iraq and the National Guard Bureau," he said. "Generally, we sort of looked after National Guard units in Iraq, to help them work through any state or National Guard-unique issues in order to minimize any distractors.

"The bottom line of our mission was to assure the smooth integration of National Guard units into the overall effort in Iraq; so just about anything that we could do to help iron out issues and be helpful ... to really minimize any possible distractions from the mission at hand."

Preiss said he knew that in order to get the artifact out of country, he needed explicit permission.

"So I thought, 'Why don't I get the clearance to take the sign down and keep it?' since it was only a sign and it was going to end up in the trash anyway."

"I called the [National Guard] museum to see if they'd even be interested in it and when [they] said yes I started the process by writing an e-mail to the mayor cell for Camp Victory, describing the sign and what I wanted to do with it," he said. "I had to get permission since it was still federal property and they wrote me right back with approval."

Once he received the approval, Preiss said he rolled the artifact up to be placed into a box for shipping to the U.S.

"It got a little wrinkled during the process, but the expert archivist at the museum is confident that it can be restored and repaired - it just needs to be flattened out really," he said.

Cathleen Pearl, former deputy director, National Guard Educational Foundation, said, "with it being hung in country and being shipped, it is now being laid out flat."

"It's very brittle," she said, "so what we need to do is get some humidity on it and flatten it back out. It did come with its own collapsible frame, so what we would like to do is get it back to a point where it's stable enough for us to flatten it back out and have it look nice in its original frame again."

Pearl said the goal is to have the sign in a good enough condition for it to be included as a piece in the National Guard Museum's 9/11 Era Gallery.

"It takes a lot of time," she said of the archival process. "You can't force it, but with a little humidity and slowly smoothing it back out, it'll do wonders for it."

Pearl said efforts by Colonel Preiss are what really made the artifact's inclusion possible. "It's pieces like this sign that allow the National Guard to really tell their story. I couldn't thank him enough."

"It's a physical, actual piece of a war-zone and on it you really see it all," Preiss said. "You see the seal of the National Guard, the seal of U.S. Forces-Iraq, and the words National Guard. I hope it serves as a critical reminder of the role that the National Guard played in the entire Iraq war, from start to finish."

Preiss heralded the National Guard Museum and said, "For decades now, it has been an important repository for the history of the National Guard, and with their newest gallery they are going to focus on the Guard story in Iraq - which is a very, very good thing."