WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2010 — Members of the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have at least two things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
First, their deployment to Iraq has been less violent than their previous 2001–2005 tour in the war-torn country.
“The violence has really been getting lower and it gets lower every day,” Army Lt. Col. David Gooch, commander of 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, told reporters Nov. 23. “We’re really thankful for that. There are still enemy elements out there but for the most part they’ve calmed down quite a bit. And the Iraqi security forces are getting stronger every day so, we’ve been very fortunate.”
Secondly, elements of the brigade are scheduled to return home before Christmas. “It may be the day before Christmas, but we [should] be home before Christmas,” Gooch said. The unit arrived in Iraq in March and it has performed a variety of security-related missions.
“Our primary mission is convoy security, but we do also have some fixed-site security missions and some personal security missions that we conduct in the country,” Gooch said. Being on the road conducting convoy security often means facing off against a variety of threats, especially improvised explosive devices, the lieutenant colonel said. “IEDs are, obviously, the number one threat to us during convoy security,” said Gooch, adding that overall the threat level in Iraq has decreased during the unit’s deployment and has dropped off considerably since the unit’s previous Iraq tour.
During this deployment, he said, the unit suffered no casualties or other serious incidents.
“Thus far we’ve been here [about] a year, and we’ve had 1,400 convoys with about a million miles driven by our soldiers and, to date, not one serious injury as a result of enemy activity,” said Gooch, adding that there still is sporadic small arms and IED activity.
Gooch attributed this success to the experience level of the soldiers in the battalion, many of whom had previous service in Iraq.
“This is my second deployment to Iraq,” Gooch said. “And, I guess for about 60 percent of the soldiers this is their second deployment as well.” Also during this deployment, as in 2004, there is a tremendous amount of support from those at home, he said.
“We have terrific family support groups back in Louisiana at all of our armories throughout the state,” Gooch said. “The families have been incredibly supportive and we get boxes of things every day in the mail. We just couldn’t do this without them.”
He said support comes from other sources as well.
“Veterans groups and veterans’ affairs groups throughout the state have also helped and even city councils from the various cities have helped us,” Gooch said. However, he said, there is one thing that those groups could not provide for the Iraq-deployed Louisiana Guardsmen.
“Most of the soldiers here are used to Cajun food,” Gooch said. “We can’t wait to get back and get some good food.”
As he looks back, Gooch said, it couldn’t have been a smoother deployment.
“The soldiers have done a terrific job,” he said. “They’ve been very professional and have handled this mission incredibly. I could not have asked for a better group of soldiers to have come with to Iraq and now they’re just all ready to get back to their families.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)