32nd Brigade Headquarters assumes responsibilities in Baghdad's International Zone - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

32nd Brigade Headquarters assumes responsibilities in Baghdad's International Zone

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by Tim Donovan

BAGHDAD (PRESS RELEASE) - With the simple passage of unit colors from one officer to another Wednesday, responsibility for one of the most complex pieces of real estate in the world was accepted by Col. Steven Bensend and the headquarters of the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The real estate is the International Zone, described as "a critical swath of urban terrain in the heart of Baghdad."

Bensend, commander of the 32nd Brigade, took command of the Joint Area Support Group - Central from the commander of the New Jersey Guard's 50th Brigade Combat Team, which had the mission since September 2008.

The formal transfer of authority ceremony was held at the former Ba'ath Party headquarters, located on Forward Operating Base Union III in what many people still call Green Zone.

Maj. Gen. Guy Swan, chief of staff for Multinational Force - Iraq, presided over the ceremony. He said the JASG's mission can be summed up in six words: "administer and secure the International Zone." Swan said the mission is "that simple and that difficult."

Swan told the incoming and outgoing JASG troops assembled from New Jersey and Wisconsin that to truly appreciate the scope of mission you need to understand that the IZ is no normal city. "It is a global community with an enormously complex administrative, diplomatic and security arrangement, full of high ranking civilian and military officials from the United States, Iraq and other countries," he said.

"And doing it in a combat environment, under constant threat of attack, makes it exponentially even more difficult."

Wisconsin's 3,200 soldiers of the 32nd Brigade Combat Team are assigned to challenging missions throughout Iraq, from Umm Qasr in the far south, at several locations in and around Baghdad, and at other locations a bit north of Iraq's capital.

But it is the brigade's 140-soldier headquarters that drew the high-visibility International Zone mission.

"I have full confidence that the 32nd IBCT and the soldiers of the Red Arrow can accomplish this mission," Bensend told his troops. "I see confidence and mission-focused soldiers who are ready to do, with the spirit of Wisconsin, what they came to do," he said.

Bensend called this an important mission that won't be easy.

"But it will be rewarding," he predicted. "Red Arrow soldiers, you will make a difference."

The 32nd Brigade was mobilized in February and completed training at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Camp Buehring, Kuwait, before arriving in Iraq in early May. The brigade's 27 units expect to complete their missions in January 2010.

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