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NEWS | Dec. 22, 2010

Oregon National Guard unit hits Iraq running

By Army Staff Sgt. Pat Caldwell 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Noah Siple wasted no time last week coaching his Soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard.

As the Guardsmen from The Dalles’ Company A, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), arrived at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, he delivered a clear, concise message.

“When I picked them up at the airport I said it was game time,” said Siple.

A Co. hit the ground running, sending Guardsmen out on the road to conduct convoy escort missions within 24 hours of landing at JBB.

 Now that they have totally taken control of the security mission from Louisiana’s 3rd Bn., 156th Infantry Regiment, they are slowly becoming familiar with the new environment.

Siple said there will be a transition period for his Guardsmen.

“The vigilance piece is still in order, finding out what is normal, what isn’t,” he said.

He added that learning the environment will not be an easy task.

“We are trained to identify the IED [improvised explosive device] indicators,” he said.

Siple also noted that there is a clear difference between the Iraq of 2004-2005, when the 3rd Bn. deployed here the first time, and today.

“What the brigade focused on in 2004 and 2005 [was] ‘the bad guys are everywhere;’ well it’s not like that anymore,” he said.

During their first deployment, an Iraqi vehicle trying to close in on an American military convoy could translate into an attack. Siple said that may not be the case now.

“It is probably a guy going to work, not blow up your convoy,” he said.

Every Guardsman in A Co. must deal with a transition process, even the veterans, explained Siple.

“[The veterans] are realizing this is a totally different Iraq,” he said. “The brand new guy and the veteran are in the same boat.”

One of those veterans is Army 1st Sgt. Brian Nation, senior enlisted advisor with A Co., 3rd Bn., who noticed that there are already some clear differences between this tour and the 2004-2005 deployment.

“We [in 2004-2005] did everything from clearing villages to searches,” said Nation. “Now we are escorting convoys.”

Nation said that signs of the drawdown in Iraq are evident everywhere.

“You can see it,” he said.

For the next few weeks, A Co. will begin to learn the spider web of roads that slice across the unit’s operational area in Iraq.

“That’s the primary focus now,” said Nation.