News: Team finds strength in diversity
Story by Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – Capt. Shawn Reiss does not look very far to find the key recipe to success in Iraq. All he has to do is look at his unit.
Reiss, an Idaho Falls, Idaho, resident, said the mixture of diverse experience and expertise translated from the civilian world proved to be the magic blend for his soldiers now entering their fifth month of service at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
He added that Company Golf boasts soldiers with a host of different military occupational specialties, which, he said, is a huge factor in the unit’s success.
“We have a lot of different skill sets we can bring to the table,” he said.
Reiss has served with Idaho’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team when they deployed to Iraq for a one-year tour in 2004.
He later led his unit, Company G, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, into Iraq for his second tour in 2010.
“We are basically a convoy security company,” Reiss said.
Company G is made up of CETs, or convoy escort teams, that escort sustainment convoys throughout northern and central Iraq. Each convoy carries an array of supplies from ammunition to food to equipment.
The deep pool of knowledge his soldiers deliver from the civilian world is evident nearly every day, Reiss said.
“I see the CET commanders and crews come up with innovative ideas to make things easier and make us more efficient,” he said.
Spc. Andrew Kaiser, a Boise, Idaho, native, said Iraq proved to be far different than he thought, particularly in terms of weather.
“It is a lot greener than I expected,” Kaiser said.”When you think Iraq, you think hot and dry, not freezing and rain.”
Iraq also delivered surprises for Staff Sgt. Cody Patterson, a truck commander and a Montpelier, Idaho, resident.
“Going out the first time I was in awe,” said Patterson, a truck driver in civilian life.
Spc. Joshua Burgess, a gunner from Idaho Falls, Idaho, said that while the level of violence in Iraq has fallen, there is still danger.
“I worry every day that a piece of trash on the road could be an IED,” he said. “And, when it gets dark, everything changes.”
Still, Burgess said his tour has been a good one so far.
“Going out doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I keep my eyes open.”
Reiss said that there is a level of risk associated with the convoy escort mission, but he emphasized that the nation he first saw in 2004 has changed drastically.
“The country has come a long way compared to the last time we were here,” he said. “There have been a lot of improvements. Things are getting better and our role here has helped that. There is a threat out there, but we do a good job of mitigating it.”
All four soldiers said the hardest part of the deployment is the separation from their families.
“I rely heavily on my faith and we are fortunate we have Internet and Skype,” said Reiss, who is married with five children. “I try to keep in contact on a regular basis.”
Reiss said his company’s achievements on its deployment to Iraq rests on its soldiers.
“The easiest thing for me is to have great Soldiers to work with,” he said.” I’ve got great officers and NCOs [non-commissioned officers], and they jump in and help.”