News: Oregon Army National Guard works to secure and rebuild northern Iraq
Story by Capt. Stephen Bomar
TAJI, Iraq - Soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard are assisting the 1st Armored Division with some of the most vital missions in northern Iraq: security and reconstruction.
"One of our many missions entails clearing the sides of the road in Iraq to prevent future improvised explosive device emplacement," said Staff Sgt. Edward Lewis, 2nd Platoon team leader, 224th Engineers, Oregon Army National Guard.
Culvert denial, route sanitation, rapid crater repair and culvert repair are all a part of the many engineer missions 2nd Platoon, 224th Engineers, Oregon Army National Guard conducts in northern Iraq.
"We are kind of a jack of all trades group, but it does make time go by fast," Lewis said.
These citizen Soldiers were activated for a 400-day deployment to Iraq in mid-2007. All volunteers, many of the Soldiers were not apart of the unit before leaving Oregon.
"We have all become a really tight group," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Bright, 2nd Platoon's platoon sergeant.
2nd Platoon has encountered four IEDs and two small arms-fire attacks to include a sniper attack near Taji, which wounded Pvt. Gary Phyleder. Despite these hardships, the Soldiers of the 224th maintain great spirits.
"We all just want to do our part," said Lewis, who was married before the deployment. "Support back home makes a big difference; family care has been great."
Now, over half way complete with their deployment, the Soldiers continue to enjoy the variety and change of both locations and missions, but are ready to head back home.
"Camaraderie, seeing the sites and knowing that we are helping the Iraqi kids is the best part of being over here, but Oregon is in sight now," Lewis said.
The 224th Engineers in Iraq consist of three platoons making up the 1203rd Engineer Battalion, a reserve battalion out of Duthan, Ala., which falls under the control of the 20th Engineer Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C., currently supporting the 1st Armored Division.