News: Cavalry commander reflects on tour of duty
Story by Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – Statistics often tell only part of a story, but when it comes to raw numbers, the tale of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command lingers as one of precision and triumph over adversity.
Charlie Company faced and overcame a series of hurdles during its deployment to central Iraq by putting a sharp focus on the missions said Capt. Seth Musgrove, the commander of Charlie Company, and a native of La Grande, Ore.
“Nothing comes easy,” he said. “You have to look at it fresh every day.” Musgrove said the deployment to central Iraq proved to be a learning experience for everyone in his unit, including himself.
The statistics highlight Charlie Company’s heavy workload. Musgrove’s unit escorted more than 500 convoys and traveled more than 50,000 miles on Iraqi roadways while dodging the occasional roadside bomb. That feat was accomplished because of the dedication of the unit, Musgrove said.
“They’ve exceeded my expectations. I’m extremely proud of them. We will come home now with a real sense of accomplishment,” he said.
The operational tempo the unit embraced was hectic, said 1st Lt. Mike Sattem, a platoon leader for C Company, and a native of La Grande, Ore. The unit and his platoon took the busy work schedule in stride, he added.
“They’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do,” Sattem said.
Sattem’s platoon also encountered its fair share of enemy contact.
“Some pretty significant events occurred. But these guys continued to give everything. A lot of them want to stay and keep doing it,” Sattem said.
Musgrove said pinning down the magic combination that made Charlie Company. successful is difficult. There is not one single factor that contributed to the unit’s success, he said.
“It is a combination of a lot of things. Work ethic, a good moral compass, the small town eastern Oregon ethos, a sense of pride and dignity,” he said.
Sattem said that small town mentality produced a level of professionalism that paid dividends on convoy escort missions.
“Everyone is interconnected in some way because every one comes from such small communities. It creates a common bond right off the bat,” he said.
One challenge that never evaporated, Musgrove said, was ensuring his soldiers stayed alert. Because of the very nature of the convoy escort mission – miles of roadways punctuated occasionally by an improvised explosive device ambush – made the fight against complacency critical.
“Keeping soldiers focused is always something you have to have your thumb on as a commander,” Musgrove said.
Musgrove said the company’s leaders are well aware of the danger of complacency.
“Complacency is definitely at the forefront of our concerns. It takes a lot of leader engagement to fight it,” he said.
In a real way Musgrove personifies the kind of officer forged during the 10-year war on terror. He first arrived in Iraq in 2004 as a lieutenant. He was placed in charge of a platoon where finding and destroying the enemy was the main objective.
When he came back to Iraq with Charlie Company, he was a company commander and the job his soldiers tackled did not resemble the one he encountered during his first deployment. The mission changed and the key focus was protecting convoys moving up and down the roads of Iraq and a responsible re-posturing of coalition forces. When he arrived in Iraq in 2004, he was newlywed. Now he and his wife have two children, both under the age of five.
“I’m missing a lot of family time. But I think those struggles, being away from home, are shared by all soldiers who deploy,” he said. “Being in the military you inherit those sacrifices,” he said.
Reviewing his family’s sacrifice is one of perspective, he said.
“You have to look at what you’ve accomplished on behalf of your country,” he said.
Another crucial element of the unit’s success revolved around the support it received from home, he said.
“The city of Ontario [Oregon] has been very selfless in their support of the families and we appreciate everything they’ve done for us,” he added.
This fall, Musgrove will lead his unit back to Oregon. He will then close the chapter on his experience in Iraq.
“I’m looking forward to getting back home and starting a new chapter,” he said.
Sattem said he will stay with the 3rd Battalion after it redeploys to Oregon. He said the ethos of the 3rd Battalion is something special.
“There is a mentality and a brotherhood among all the guys in the battalion. There is much more of a bond in this battalion than I’ve seen in other units,” Sattem said.