Coming off the backstretch: Around the 32nd Brigade - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Coming off the backstretch: Around the 32nd Brigade

With only about three months left in the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team's mission in Iraq, this is an update on some of our units from their locations around the country over the past month.

by Lt. Col. Tim Donovan

BAGHDAD (PRESS RELEASE) -- While their families were suffering unseasonably chilly weather back in Wisconsin this week, deployed 32nd Brigade soldiers endured a cool spell of their own in Iraq. Temperatures in Baghdad dipped below triple digits, with a high of only 96 degrees Saturday and 98 on Sunday before inching back up to 100 by midweek.

The cooler temperatures are a welcome relief after more than four months of temperatures that often climbed to 120 degrees or more in Baghdad-and much higher in the far south of Iraq. In spite of the harsh conditions, 32nd Brigade units have accomplished a lot since they arrived in Iraq in mid-May. Here are some examples:

Headquarters, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Camp Douglas)

The 32nd Brigade headquarters is operating as Joint Area Support Group-Central (JASG-C) with responsibility for administering and securing the International Zone in Baghdad. Part of this mission is to return most of the remaining U.S.-controlled properties in the IZ to the government of Iraq. These property transfers change the face of the IZ-the center of gravity of the nation-and further prepare Iraq to control its own destiny after U.S. forces withdraw by August 2011.

The latest properties transferred by 32nd Brigade soldiers were a 17.1 acre property known as Forward Operating Base Blackhawk on Sept. 30 and Baghdad‘s Ibn Sina Hospital on Oct. 1.

Blackhawk includes a six-story, steel and concrete, German-engineered structure, known as Believers Palace. The $66 million structure was built to conceal Saddam

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Hussein‘s bunkers which extend to three stories below. It was heavily damaged during the opening night of the U.S.-led offensive in March 2003. Since then, the property housed up to 700 U.S. military personnel and contractors. -This has been one of our most complicated turnovers to date,‖ said Col. Martin Seifer, Seymour, Wis., the JASG‘s director of installations and head of the IZ transition team.

U.S. medical personnel at Ibn Sina Hospital treated hundreds of thousands of U.S. and coalition military personnel, Iraqi citizens-and even enemy combatants-since 2003. The hospital was made famous in the award-winning HBO documentary -Baghdad E.R.‖ Ibn Sina‘s turnover to the government of Iraq marked the 33rd property the U.S. military has returned to the government of Iraq since the U.S.-Iraq security agreement took effect Jan. 1. Nine more properties are scheduled to be turned over before the year ends.

1158th Transportation Company (Beloit, Black River Falls)

One of the 1158th Transportation Company‘s missions is running vocational and other classes for detainees at a part of Camp Cropper, near Baghdad, known as Remembrance II. The 1158th provides a guard force and manages the program that allows detainees to attend classes while in custody. Classes in English, art, sewing, computers, basic education and carpentry are intended to build or improve job skills detainees will need after they are released.

As Iraq is rebuilt, it will need a skilled workforce, and the 1158th‘s soldiers are part of the effort.

32nd Military Police Company (Milwaukee, Oconomowoc)

The 32nd Military Police Company has conducted 94 missions, including detainee air transport missions to safely move more than 8,800 detainees from Camp Bucca to Camp Taji. During one 11-day period alone, the company escorted 3,931 detainees and set a record for transferring 522 detainees in a single day by both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft.

These detainees of the government of Iraq were transferred to a facility that 32nd MP Company soldiers had already inspected to ensure the Iraqi facility met international standards for detention. The MP Company‘s 49 Corrections Assistance Transition Team (CATT) missions included the first-ever bilateral inspection of an Iraqi facility. The CATT missions will eventually allow U.S. forces to turn over all of the detainees now being held at U.S. military internment facilities, taking the United States out of the detainee operations business in Iraq.

One reinforced squad from the 32nd Military Police Company helped gather biometric data on more than 4,600 detainees and connected several of them with fingerprints found at the scenes of previously unsolved crimes in Iraq.

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Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry (Madison)

Headquarters Troop of 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry is responsible for life support and other functions at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Cropper, near the Baghdad International Airport. This has included work to develop and supervise all antiterrorism and force protection projects across base.

These projects range from entry control points, sniper screening, traffic flow and security lighting. The 105th‘s force protection team recently reorganized the entire FOB barrier plan, adding and moving several hundred concrete barriers to increase overall security on the base.

Troop A, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry (Fort Atkinson)

Troop A, 105th Cavalry has conducted more than 1,200 combat patrols since arriving in Iraq and the troop commander, Capt. Matthew McDonald, reports the pace doesn‘t appear to be slowing. Time goes by quickly, according to McDonald, with each day presenting its own challenges depending on where the troop‘s soldiers are located and what missions they conduct.

-I have a unique opportunity to travel around much of Iraq seeing my soldiers, and they are each very proud of their accomplishments and looking forward to returning home with honor,‖ McDonald said. Alpha Troop leaders try to keep the troopers focused on their missions and their skills sharp with, among other things, a lot of time on weapons ranges.

-It‘s safe to say that many of our guys have fired more rounds in the past year in training than many fire in their entire career,‖ McDonald said.

Troop B, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry (Watertown)

Bravo Troop reports its quick reaction force has been a little busier than usual during the past month. In addition to scheduled force protection patrols, the QRF responded to a number of incidents in the troop‘s area of operations-both on and off Victory Base Complex near the Baghdad airport.

These patrols range from routine to actual threat responses. On scheduled patrols, the troopers often bring candy or other snacks to hand out to local children who seem to appear out of nowhere whenever they stop for more than a minute. During one mid-September patrol the soldiers distributed brand new soccer balls acquired by Sgt. Joshua Powers from a sporting goods store back home.

Bravo Troop took on some of Camp Cropper‘s sailors Oct. 3 in an impromptu Army-Navy flag football game. Bravo Troop‘s team consisted of Spc. David Bold, Sgt. Stanley Doty, Spc. Daniel Eggers, Pfc. Nathan Haworth, Spc. Jason Heller, Pfc. Scott Herrick,

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Spc. Dean Johnson, Pfc. Benjamin Pechacek, Sgt. Clarence Pratt, Pfc. Joseph Smith, Staff Sgt. James Smithson, and Staff Sgt. Elgin Thomas.

-It was a formidable struggle,‖ said 1st Sgt. Thomas Bruss. -But when the dust settled our troopers emerged triumphant in a 40 to 38 victory.‖

Bravo Troop blames the Navy for a sprained ankle suffered by one of the troop‘s soldiers.

Troop C, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry (Reedsburg)

-Since we arrived in Iraq, C Troop has maintained a consistent focus on improving our ‗fighting positions,‘‖ said Capt. Jonathon Burbach, Charlie Troop‘s commander.

While most of the improvements involved organizing equipment left behind by the previous unit, cleaning and making repairs to facilities, and moving sandbags and concrete barriers to better protect the perimeter, Charlie Troop also supervised construction of a new guard tower.

The soldiers continue to get overwhelming support from their hometown community of Reedsburg. One effort is the Adopt-a-Squad program, in which community members or organizations -adopt‖ a squad from the troop and send letters and care packages to the squad‘s troopers. Another hometown-based program was an organized card drive called Cards for the Guards, which resulted in more than 2,500 greeting cards for Charlie Troop.

-We are blessed by the amount of support we continue to receive from Reedsburg,‖ Burbach said.

Headquarters Company (Eau Claire) and Company A (Menomonie), 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry

Headquarters and Alpha Company 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry continue to provide life support and training assistance to Iraqi corrections officers (ICOs) training at Forward Operating Base Future on Victory Base Complex. In addition, the battalion‘s headquarters is overseeing construction of more than $28 million in new training facilities for Iraqi corrections officers.

Company A recently graduated its second class of Iraqi corrections officers, bringing the total number of ICOs trained since July 1 to more than 850. The new Iraqi corrections officers receive hundreds of hours of instruction on how to properly maintain custody of detainees while treating them with care, dignity and respect.

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Company D, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry (River Falls)

The 128th Infantry‘s Delta Company is also assigned to Victory Base, but with a different mission. Company D soldiers conduct detainee escort missions, getting the detainees safely to and from court appearances. By mid-October, the company completed 565 missions and escorted approximately 4,400 detainees.

Company B, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry (Green Bay)

Company B of 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry has a security force mission at Camp Bucca, where the company‘s soldiers provided force protection and area security to all coalition forces operating in what was the largest Theater Internment Facility in Iraq until it closed Sept. 16. The company commander, Capt. Matthew Elder, reports his company has also:

 Conducted more than 500 mounted area security and force protection patrols throughout over 200 square miles of the battalion‘s area of operations.

 Performed 15 quick reaction force response missions within the battalion area of operations.

 Conducted area reconnaissance in the company‘s 100 square mile area of operations.

 Completed more than 75 missions augmenting the U.S. Army Military Transition Team assigned to train and advise the 2nd Iraqi Marine Battalion in Umm Qasr.

 Conducted more than 50 missions providing force protection and personal security to port advisory teams working with the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation at the Port of Umm Qasr-Iraq‘s only deep water port.

The company is also training and supervising Iraqi Marines as the Iraqis assume entry control point operations for Camp Bucca‘s new water distribution point.

Company D, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry (Marinette)

Marinette-based Company D of 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry started off at Camp Bucca in May, but as the detainees were transferred from Bucca to the Theater Internment Facility Reconciliation Center (TIFRC) at Camp Taji, most of Delta Company was also moved to Taji. One of the company‘s platoons was assigned to Camp Cropper-perhaps the only platoon ever to work in all three of the internment facilities in Iraq.

-ur accomplishments in the detainee operations environment do not feel immediately tangible,‖company commander Capt. Nathan Olson, noted. -he seemingly small, yet constant acts of treating the detainees with dignity and respect will later though, pay

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large dividends as the detainees are released and return to their family and friends and talk with them about their time here in the Taji TIFRC,‖he said.

Delta Company soldiers at Camp Taji run one of the huge climate-controlled Quonset-style huts known as KSPANs. They provide basic custody, care and control of detainees in the KSPAN-everything from feeding, ensuring all detainees have adequate amounts of approved supplies, providing sick call services, moving detainees to schools, escorting detainees to and from the recreation yards, and watching over them. They also ensure detainees have access to approved activities such as chess, cards, books, and television.

- wonder if any of these guys I watch every day tried to blow me or my friends up during the last deployment,‖Spc. Ryan Klozotsky said. -Yet, by being respectful to them as I am passing out their food, getting them water, issuing razors, lighting their cigarettes, escorting them to classes; I hope it shows our humanity as a nation,‖Klozotsky said.

132nd Brigade Support Battalion (Portage)

The resourcefulness of National Guard soldiers was on display in mid-September at Camp Bucca, where the 132nd Brigade Support Battalion‘s Facility Engineering Team was assigned to establish a bulk, potable water distribution system for local Iraqis.

The 19-day deadline and $0 budget required a creative solution: perching a 50,000 gallon water bladder on top of some unused modular housing containers. A team of 12 soldiers salvaged materials from around the camp and began grading out an area for the future water distribution site. Sixteen 40-foot metal containers, stacked eight wide by two high, were welded together to hold nearly 400,000 pounds of water-an elegantly simple but ingenious engineering solution made possible by Wisconsin National Guard soldiers whose military capabilities are enriched by their civilian experiences.

The project was completed on time and on budget-if cost-free can be considered a budget-and on Oct. 1 the first three Iraqi trucks entered through a new gate (also built by the 132nd soldiers) and left with nearly 12,000 gallons of water. The distribution system now supports nearly 50,000 Iraqis with their potable water needs.

The facilities team also built waste water collection points for the citizens of Safwan and Umm Qasr.

-These are the first projects in Iraq completed without funding that positively impact and directly support the local Iraqi population with fresh potable water,‖said 1st Lt. Michael Pias, officer in charge of the facility team.

829th Engineer Company (Chippewa Falls, Richland Center, Ashland)

The 829th Engineer Company has a theater internment facility mission at Camp

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Cropper, but that doesn‘t keep the unit‘s troops from using some of their more traditional engineer skills. The company‘s repairs and utilities team, for example, recently built gate components to house the new modular detainee housing unit (MDHU) compound on Cropper.

A medical team from the 829th is also engaged in duties that are somewhat non-traditional for an engineer unit. This team administers -ealth care at the wire‖for more than 3,000 detainees housed at Camp Cropper.

-e‘re proud of our soldiers‘ accomplishments on a daily basis,‖said 829th commander, Capt. Shannon Kilcoyne. -hey endure high levels of stress on and off the TIF, completing each mission with professionalism, honor and great attitudes.‖

Company A, 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion (Onalaska)

Soldiers from Company A of the 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion had been running two KSPAN detainee compounds at Camp Taji, but the unit is now responsible only for one. Alpha Company soldiers have also transferred hundreds of detainees to the government of Iraq for release or trial-another important part of the process that is reducing U.S. involvement in Iraq‘s affairs.

The company‘s executive officer, 1st Lt. Jonathon Barnett, reports morale is boosted as the date soldiers return home approaches.

-oldiers are moving around with a little bit more energy now because there are only a few more months of this place,‖Barnett said. -eople can deal with the idea of a short time of harsh reality if they can see a light ahead and know that is the direction we are traveling.‖


Many of the 32nd Brigade soldiers will feel a little closer to home this weekend as they join several thousand brigade family members in a virtual tailgate party. Families will gather at the Dane County Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison for an event called -ailgating With The Troops,‖and soldiers will join them over the Internet from seven locations in Iraq.

The Packers-Lions game will be shown at the Coliseum and will be broadcast in Iraq by the American Forces Network. The noon kickoff in Green Bay will happen at 8 p.m. Iraq time, but soldiers in Iraq are accustomed to unusual football-watching times after a couple of 3:30 a.m. games.

On the menu in Madison will be standard tailgate fare, donated by sponsors from around the state. In Iraq, the soldiers will try to create their own tailgate atmosphere with whatever their various locations can provide. Beer won‘t be on the menu in Iraq, though, as alcohol is strictly prohibited in combat zones.

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Although the 32nd Brigade‘s mission in Iraq is closer to its end than its beginning, the brigade commander, Col. Steven Bensend, says his 3,200 soldiers have lots of work left to accomplish.

-Although they have passed the halfway point, our soldiers remain focused on their missions,‖Bensend said.

-Red Arrow soldiers from the Wisconsin National Guard are doing amazing work in the difficult and dangerous environment of Iraq,‖he said. -ost of brigade‘s missions here are unrelated to what our units would normally do, but these are National Guard soldiers who brought with them their Wisconsin work ethic and the rich skills and experiences of their civilian lives.‖

Augmenting the 32nd Brigade are six other Wisconsin Army National Guard units: The 257th Brigade Support Battalion, the 32nd Military Police Company, the 108th Forward Support Company, the 829th Engineer Company, the 1158th Transportation Company, and Battery A of 1st Battalion 121st Field Artillery. The 32nd Brigade and six additional units were mobilized Feb. 1 and trained at Fort Bliss, Texas, for about two months before deploying to Iraq in May.

The 32nd Brigade‘s 3,200-plus soldiers are expected to complete their missions in about three months and return to Wisconsin in January 2010.

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NOTE: 16 photos are available (thumbnails on following pages). For most photos, higher resolution versions will be available on the Wisconsin National Guard Web site ( Availability of photos on the Web site may be slightly delayed, so they are also available by email here in Iraq (

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Coming off the backstretch - Photos page 1

Spc. Erika Valento, 829th Engineer Company, checks a detainee's blood sugar with a portable glucometer while making her rounds in the Remembrance II Theater Internment Facility at Camp Cropper. Valento works as part of a medical team that administers -ealth care at the wire‖for over 3,000 Camp Cropper detainees. Photo provided by the 829th Engineer Company. 32 BCT 09-021 - Coming off the backstretch: Around the 32nd Brigade

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A pit crew from Bravo Troop's 1st Platoon changes a tire that went flat on one of their gun trucks just as they were preparing to depart for a force protection patrol outside of Victory Base's wire on Sept. 27. Changing the tire are Bravo Troop's Staff Sgt. Casey Freeman and Staff Sgt. Dennis Thurber. Photo by Col. Eric Bush.

Left to right: Sgt. 1st Class Dave Tourdot, Staff Sgt. Craig Weber and 2nd Lt. Nate Abrams sort through some of the 2,500 cards received by Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry from the unit's hometown of Reedsburg, Wis. The cards were sent overseas to the soldiers through an initiative called -ards for the Guards.‖Photo provided by Troop C, 1-105th Cavalry.

Sgt. Joshua Powers of Watertown's Bravo Troop, 1-105th Cavalry, gives away new soccer balls at a halt during a force protection patrol outside of Victory Base Compound's secure perimeter on Sept. 17. Photo by Spc. Erin Rice.

Pfc. Joshua Olson pulls security at a halt during a force protection patrol with Bravo Troop, 1-105 Cavalry outside the Victory Base wire on Sept 17. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Ken Tennies.

829th Engineer Company medic Spc. Ryan Van de Walker and fellow medical personnel deliver a patient to MEDEVAC helicopter at Camp Stryker on Victory Base Complex near Baghdad International Airport. Photo provided by the 829th Engineer Company. 32 BCT 09-021 - Coming off the backstretch: Around the 32nd Brigade

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Sgt. William Piumbroeck (right) arm-wrestles an Iraqi Marine during a routine stop on an area security patrol in southern Iraq. Piumbroeck is assigned to Green Bay-based Company B, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry. Photo provided by Co. B, 2-127th Infantry.

Three Iraqi children flash -humbs up‖to soldiers of Reesdburg-based Bravo Troop, 105th Cavalry. The soldiers were on a Sept. 27 force protection patrol outside the wire of Victory Base Complex near the Baghdad International Airport. Photo by Col. Eric Bush.

Spc. Darrel Wold welds while Spc. Dawn Anderson cuts as they work on hard-to-build gate components for the new Modular Detainee Housing Unit (MDHU) compound on Camp Cropper. Wold and Anderson are assigned to the Repairs and Utilities Team of the 829th Engineer Company. Photo provided by the 829th Engineer Company.

Staff Sgt. Dan Duessler (left), and 1st Lt. Tim Boehnen (center) finish strong in the 68th Military Police Regimental 5K Race at Camp Liberty with a little encouragement from Spc. Adam Collins (right), who finished the race and turned back to help the others. The soldiers are members of the 829th Engineer Company based at Camp Cropper. Cropper and Liberty are both located on Victory Base near the Baghdad International Airport. Photo provided by the 829th Engineer Company.

Through-the-windshield view of a recent escort mission through Baghdad conducted by soldiers of River Falls-based Company D, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry. Photo provided by 1-128th Infantry. 32 BCT 09-021 - Coming off the backstretch: Around the 32nd Brigade

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Spc. Ryan Van de Walker inserts a catheter into the arm of an ill U.S. soldier at the Task Force 14th Medical Combat Support Hospital Emergency Room at Camp Cropper. Van de Walker is a medic with the 829th Engineer Company. Photo provided by the 829th Engineer Company.

Col. Martin Seifer of the 32nd Brigade Headquarters signs documents to turn Baghdad's famous Ibn Sina Hospital over to the government of Iraq Oct. 1. Seifer is director of installations for Joint Area Support Group, whose mission is administration and security of the International Zone in Baghdad-and turning most of the IZ's remaining U.S.-controlled properties back to Iraq. Photo by Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez, JASG-C Public Affairs.

A news cameraman from an Iraq TV station tapes the assistant governor for Basra Province, Iraq, Mr. Zuhair Abrahim, as he speaks to Iraqi and U.S. officials before a ribbon cutting ceremony to open new water distribution and waste collection points for the people of Iraq. The water distribution point can provide Iraqis with up to 50,000 thousand gallons of fresh potable water, and the waste collection point can receive up to 500,000 gallons of waste daily. Photo provided by the 132nd BSB.

The first tank truck loads up on potable water at a water distribution point built with no money but tons of ingenuity by Wisconsin National Guard soldiers from the 132nd Brigade Support Battalion near Umm Qasr Oct. 1. Photo provided by the 132nd BSB.

Sgt. 1st Class Dave Tourdot supervises contractors building a new guard tower for the location where Charlie Troop, 105th Cavalry is assigned. Photo provided by Troop C, 1-105th Cavalry.

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