Iraq-Deployed Louisiana Guard Troops See Gains

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)

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