USA / Irak

Min­neso­ta Nation­al Guard to Com­mand Active-Duty Forces in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2008 — For only the sec­ond time since 9/11, a U.S. Army Nation­al Guard divi­sion head­quar­ters will deploy to com­mand active-duty forces in com­bat.
The Defense Depart­ment and Min­neso­ta Nation­al Guard today announced that more than 1,000 sol­diers from the 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Divi­sion will mobi­lize for train­ing in Feb­ru­ary for a year­long deploy­ment to Iraq that will begin in April.

“Min­nesotans have grown accus­tomed to our Nation­al Guard forces leav­ing their fam­i­lies, employ­ers, farms and com­mu­ni­ties in order to car­ry out vital mis­sions in harm’s way,” Army Maj. Gen. Lar­ry W. Shel­li­to, the state’s adju­tant gen­er­al, said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence today at the Rose­mont Nation­al Guard Armory in Rose­mont, Minn.

More than 17,000 cit­i­zen-sol­diers and -air­men from Min­neso­ta units have deployed since 9/11, but this par­tic­u­lar mis­sion is dif­fer­ent, Shel­li­to said.

“The scope of this mis­sion is unprece­dent­ed for the mod­ern Min­neso­ta Nation­al Guard,” he said.

The divi­sion head­quar­ters will pro­vide lead­er­ship, com­mand and con­trol, and in-depth staff analy­sis for more than 16,000 U.S., Sal­vado­ran, Lithuan­ian and Roman­ian coali­tion troops in the south­ern third of the coun­try.

The “Red Bulls” also will have direct part­ner­ship with more than 40,000 Iraqi sol­diers and police­men across eight of Iraq’s 18 provinces, all of which have been tran­si­tioned to provin­cial Iraqi con­trol. Coali­tion troops in the region are employed in a sup­port­ing role to Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, Shel­li­to said.

“The images of U.S. troops fight­ing at close quar­ters in intense street bat­tles are images of the past,” he said. “In order to make this tran­si­tion hap­pen we now need troops who are not only pro­fi­cient in mil­i­tary skills, but are adept in assist­ing civ­il author­i­ties as well.”

Secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ties in the region “rest with pro­fes­sion­al and capa­ble Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces,” Army Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, com­man­der of the 34th Infantry Divi­sion, said dur­ing the press con­fer­ence. He added that the days of “U.S.-only oper­a­tions” in Iraq are most­ly over.

“Our mis­sion will be ground­ed with our rela­tion­ship with the Iraqis,” Nash said. “We will con­duct all oper­a­tions by, with and through Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. The mea­sure of suc­cess for the 34th [Infantry] Divi­sion will be to what extent the gov­ern­ment of Iraq is capa­ble of pro­vid­ing for its own pop­u­la­tion.”

The divi­sion pri­mar­i­ly will focus on work­ing with embed­ded provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams from the U.S. State Depart­ment to improve infra­struc­ture and essen­tial ser­vices as well as help the local gov­ern­ments stim­u­late the econ­o­my and job oppor­tu­ni­ties.

“This is where our cit­i­zen-sol­diers will dis­tin­guish them­selves,” Nash said, cit­ing that his unit includes sol­diers with years of expe­ri­ence in busi­ness, agri­cul­ture, law enforce­ment, law, med­i­cine and oth­er city ser­vices. “We are com­mit­ted to apply­ing our civil­ian- and mil­i­tary-acquired skills to enabling Iraqi insti­tu­tions to pro­vide for their own peo­ple.”

The division’s head­quar­ters, spe­cial troops bat­tal­ion, divi­sion band and 34th Mil­i­tary Police Com­pa­ny will receive pre-deploy­ment train­ing at Fort Lewis, Wash. In Iraq, they will relieve the 10th Moun­tain Divi­sion head­quar­ters as Multi­na­tion­al Divi­sion Cen­ter.

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Car­den
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice