News: Washington Artillery accepts new mission mid-deployment
Story by 1st Lt. Angela Fry
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – The Louisiana National Guard's 1st Battalion, 141st Field Artillery Regiment has accepted a new mission in their current deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
New Orleans' renowned "Washington Artillery," currently deployed with the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), was originally tasked with providing convoy security out of Contingency Operating Base Adder for supply routes throughout Iraq.
"Our current mission is to assist with setting the conditions for the responsible drawdown of U.S. troops and equipment in Iraq," said Lt. Col. Brian Champagne, commander, 1st Bn., 141st FA Regt., and a Belle Chasse, La., native. "We provide gun trucks for various transportation units and civilian contractors as they deliver supplies to our troops across the country."
Within the next two months, Soldiers with 1st Bn., 141st FA Regt., will be responsible for various missions in Iraq, to include command of the rear area operations center in the International Zone, also referred to as the Green Zone.
"We embrace this opportunity to be an integral part of history as Iraq assumes control of the country," he said. "We will be close to the hub of all activity in the IZ and everything we do will affect the day-to-day mission."
The new mission will require the battalion-size element to move its Soldiers and equipment to the new area in central Baghdad. The logistical challenge is something that most National Guard units are accustomed to Champagne said.
"We make this move as a battalion at least once [per] year for annual training," he said. "Throw hurricanes, ice storms and going to the field on top of that, and this is nothing new for most Guard units."
Although convoy security will continue to be one of the missions for the battalion, its Soldiers will also be responsible for the badging processes for the IZ, which determines who is allowed in and who is not, based on United States Forces-Iraq procedures.
G Company, 199th Brigade Support Battalion, attached to the 1st Bn., 141st FA Regt., will be re-assigned to the 256th IBCTs 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, to assist in force protection efforts at Joint Base Balad. A Battery will provide personnel security of government officials for the United Nations Assistance for Iraq while troops from B Battery will receive specialized training in the United States to support their new intelligence mission.
Soldiers with 1st Bn., 141st Inf. Regt., have embraced the new mission and opportunity to assist with the unit's role in establishing a stable and democratic Iraq.
"As Soldiers we have to adapt and overcome," said Sgt. Zachary Garrison, a convoy escort team truck commander with A Battery and a Baltimore native. "We are here to do a job, and we will do it successfully regardless of the mission."
Garrison, a certified nonlethal weapons instructor and father of six, personally volunteered to deploy with the Louisiana Soldiers and views this deployment as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he said.
"This is the highlight of my career," Garrison said. "I've lost a lot of buddies in this fight and this is my chance to make my contribution in defending my country and my family."
Although Garrison's only experience with the Louisiana National Guard was the month he served in support of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, with Maryland's 2nd Bn., 110th Field Artillery Regiment in 2005, he feels like part of the Washington Artillery family, he said.
"They have treated me like one of their own," Garrison said. "It's amazing how the Soldiers of the 1-141st and the 256th are more like a close-knit family, so this deployment has been easy. I am very open-minded and adjust well to different units and commands, so I think I fit in well here."
Garrison, who comes from a long line of military men, enlisted in 2001. Although he served a year deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2006, the deployment with the 256th IBCT is his first combat tour.
"I had a lot of discussions about this with my wife," he said. "This was something I needed to do and she understands that. The deployment did, however, cost me a new truck."
Garrison, an instructor at Fort Dix, N.J., prior to this deployment addressed his love for working with the troops and completing missions with his team.
"I love training Soldiers," he said. "We work hard, we do our missions, and we are blessed to have not been hit with anything. We leave together and we come home together. That's our mission."