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    Indiana Adjutant General honors Soldiers with visit to Iraq



    Story by Sgt. Rob Cooper 

    Indiana National Guard Headquarters

    By Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III
    Indiana National Guard

    BALAD, Iraq - As June marks the halfway point in the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team's current deployment in Iraq, many of the Nighthawks were treated to an unexpected visit from Indiana's adjutant general recently. During a three-day visit to Iraq that began Tuesday, June 17, Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger and State Command Sgt. Maj. James M. Brown visited with members of the 76th IBCT and ensured fellow Hoosiers that Indiana continues to "Point the Way."

    During his visit, Maj. Gen. Umbarger made stops at locations throughout Iraq, where the Nighthawks are currently conducting operations such as Balad, Al-Qayyarah and Baghdad. But no matter where he went, he and Brown complimented the brigade on their accomplishments so far.

    "It's great to be able to see all of you," Maj. Gen. Umbarger said. "Command Sgt. Maj. Brown and I have been looking forward to this visit. We think about you every day. Every place I go, people ask me 'how is the brigade doing?' I tell them all the wonderful things you are doing. Wherever you are needed, you are doing what you need to get this job done," he said.

    Aside from the convoy and route security and installation management missions, the 76th IBCT has also been spearheading the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone initiative, which was created by Multi-National Force-Iraq to spur economic growth in Iraq. The program allows coalition forces and local Iraqi leaders to co-produce new business and job opportunities.

    During his visit, Maj. Gen. Umbarger met with local leader Sheik Shihab Ahmed Saleh Al-Tamimi for the ribbon cutting ceremony of a new oil and lube service station at Joint Base Balad. The station, which was completely renovated thanks to the efforts of 76th Soldiers and members of the sheikh's village, marked the endeavors of the Nighthawks' commitment to rebuilding the Iraqi communities and their economy.

    "You are making your name throughout this entire region and I'm so very, very proud," Maj. Gen. Umbarger said.

    Although he applauded the brigade's work during his visit, the adjutant general wasn't without acknowledgment of the current efforts of Indiana Guardsmen back home battling against Mother Nature. Due to major flooding from extreme weather throughout the Midwest, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels recently declared a State of Emergency for many parts of the state.

    "There is a tremendous amount of damage due to the tornado and floods," Maj. Gen. Umbarger said. There are over 1,400 of your brothers and sisters on state active duty just doing great work for the community. The fact that no one was injured is more important than anything.

    "Your families are doing well back home," he said, assuring many Southern Indiana natives during dinner with Soldiers Tuesday. "If you have anyone you know who has problems due to the tornado and floods, let us know; give us their name and we will take it back to follow up on."

    76th IBCT Commander Col. Courtney Carr said he was grateful for the adjutant general's decision to visit despite the current conditions back home. "With all the things happening back in the state of Indiana, for (Gen. Umbarger) to be able to take the time to come over and visit us is inspiring to me," he said. It's good to see a friendly face from back home, and we appreciate everything he is doing for us and especially for our families back in the state."

    In the face of appreciation among the Soldiers, Maj. Gen. Umbarger said he was the one humbled to spend time with those who will return home as veterans later this year.

    "You're combat veterans now," he said. "You're wearing the right shoulder patch, and you've earned it; some of you for the second and third time. Nobody will ever be able to take that away from you. I commend you for volunteering to serve your state and country. I am so honored to be your adjutant general."



    Date Taken: 06.17.2008
    Date Posted: 06.20.2008 11:15
    Story ID: 20678
    Location: BALAD, IQ 

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