News: Technology Team Says Goodbye to Some of Their Own
Story by Spc. Timothy Koster
BAGHDAD, Iraq – As U.S. forces continue to re-posture, several units are redeploying individual team members as their orders expire as part of a responsible withdrawal where the military plans to reduce its footprint while still performing contingency operations.
The Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Science and Technology Assistance Team here, is a joint team which is sending home service members, including Col. John E. Shanklin Jr., chief advisor to the last RDECOM team in the country. Although the team will remain in theater until the withdrawal, no one is slated to replace Shanklin.
“It’s our job to advise the commanding general on what technology to bring in to the country,” said Shanklin, “all the new technology comes through us.”
Some of the most influential equipment RDECOM has processed is counter-improvised explosive device technology. IEDs have been a staple for the insurgency here and U.S. forces have spent a lot of time and money working on technology to help defend against this method of attack.
With some of their troops leaving without any scheduled replacements, members of RDECOM are aware of the importance of their mission and what lies before them.
“We are part of something special, something that's never been done in the history of the U.S. where we have a joint team conducting a drawdown of this magnitude,” said Col. Jeff Marquez, chief, Joint Operations force management, United States Forces – Iraq, “and we are well on our way toward mission accomplishment."
For some redeploying members the feeling of leaving this mission is bittersweet.
“My colleagues wondered why I was going to Iraq,” said 1st Lt. Kathleen Petit, a RDECOM member redeploying to Camp Pendleton, Calif. “They said ‘we’re not there,’ but I think this experience will put me ahead of my peers.”
Although it appears the finish line for U.S. operations in Iraq is finally in sight, the lessons learned and the technology developed from this military endeavor will follow each service member of the RDECOM team as they gradually leave this country and return home to the one they took an oath to protect.