09 April 2010

More than Rumors of War

Situation report, or "SITREP," follows:

As you may have figured out, there's a lot of movement behind the scenes, both for the Sherpa family and for the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division. On the personal front, I'd like to mention that Red Bull Rising was featured on a Slate.com digest of military-themed blogs called "The Sandbox." (Click here for the RBR post that ran on Slate 09 April 2010.) The mil-blog feature is under Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury comics and related projects. Needless to say, I was humbled and honored to be included in such company, and glad to add my voice to such a community.

Unfortunately, however, I don't have much time to dwell on little victories right now: There's a mobilization order in the works. Has been for more than a week, if the rumor mill is correct. Earlier this week, our unit's leaders began presenting deployment-related information in "Town Hall" events across the state. Those events have been covered by local print and broadcast media. Also, our leaders earlier posted comments on the unit Facebook page confirming that a Nebraska battalion (approximately 400 soldiers in this case) is also involved in the 2nd/34th BCT's pending deployment to Afghanistan.

As of this writing, I don't believe there's yet an official press release out about any of this. (Just checked the Iowa National Guard website, and found only a Town Hall schedule posted.) As an inside-outsider, let me say that it's ... interesting ... to see how Old School communications practices (such as press releases) are mixing and mashing against New School tools such as Facebook. It's a little like watching sausage being made.

(As one example, one Facebook user posted this comment on the unit page: "Did anyone else feel that a lot of the dates and stuff [from the Town Halls] should have came down the chain first? I don't like learning things about our deployment from the media.")

My buddies and I anticipate an official "Red Bull" message (note: this is NOT the actual code phrase for such a message--give me some OPSEC credit) will be issued sometime this weekend, when many 2nd/34th BCT units (including mine) will have their regular drills.

In the meantime, here are a couple of excerpts from a Des Moines (Iowa) Register article dated 09 April 2010:
"It's going to be different for everyone," [brigade commander] Col. Tom Staton told soldiers and their families here Thursday evening. "I tell soldiers, 'If you've never prepared your own meal, you might want to do that. If you've never washed clothes in a five-gallon bucket, you might want to try that a couple of times, so you know what it's like. If you're used to taking a shower and using porcelain bathroom facilities, you might want to try something different.' "

Staton, who was only half-kidding, will lead the National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team when it heads to Afghanistan in late fall. The deployment is expected to include 2,700 to 2,800 Iowa troops, plus about 400 Nebraska troops. It will be the biggest deployment of the Iowa Guard since World War II.
Here's an excerpt of what the Council Bluffs (Iowa) Daily Nonpareil reported 09 April 2010:
Staton said between 2,700 and 2,800 Iowa National Guard members from across Iowa will be joined by 400 members of the First Squadron, 134th Cavalry Regiment of the Nebraska National Guard when the Combat Team is deployed starting on July 29.

“The brigade mobilization date is set for July 29,” Staton said. “But each [battalion] will leave separately at a yet-to-be-determined date. I can tell you once we start the mobilization, everyone will leave within 10 days to two weeks.

Staton said when the [brigade units] leave Iowa or Nebraska, they will first go to Camp Shelby, Miss., for training. From Camp Shelby, the soldiers will then move to the national training center at Fort Irwin, Calif.

In total, Staton said, the soldiers would receive at least two months of training before being deployed to Afghanistan. The team will spend one year in the deployment.

“I’m 95 percent sure all of the soldiers will be in country by Thanksgiving,” he said.

Exactly where “in country” is was a question Staton could not answer.

The team will be mentoring and advising Afghan National Security Forces through combined actions, which means they work alongside Afghan soldiers and police officers.

“We will be living with, working with and operating with Afghan National Security Forces,” Staton said. “We will be training, teaching, mentoring and advising Afghans on how to develop their own forces.”

Staton said the mission would involve securing civilians and separating insurgents from the general population.

“There might be combat with insurgents,” he said. “But we are a combat team; we close with the enemy and destroy.”


Staton said the combat team will replace a Vermont National Guard Unit, and the Iowa force is in constant communication with Vermont team currently on the ground.

“Their mission morphs everyday; what they are doing now, we might not be doing,” he added.

Each brigade of the team will be fully sustainable, Staton said, and capable of self-sufficiency.

“Living conditions could be austere, depending on where you at,” Staton said. “Some will be good with dining facilities and access to a computer. In some you will live out of your duffle bag, rucksack and vehicle, for days or weeks at a time.”
Here's what Omaha's WOWT Channel 6 reported 09 April 2010:
Lt. Colonel Tom Rynders of Bellevue will have a large role too as one of 350 Nebraskans in the 1st Squadron of the 134th Cavalry Regiment headed to Afghanistan. "It will be more active and dangerous than Bosnia because of the insurgence of the Taliban."

We were there as he and hundreds of other Nebraska guardsmen patrolled Bosnia in 2003. That was a peacekeeping mission. Afghanistan will be about providing security to the population and assisting Afghan forces in combat operations against insurgents.

"Our units won't be doing missions on our own. We'll be partnering with Afghan Security or Afghan National elements," says Rynders.
More news as it happens, more analysis to come.

Thanks for your attention. Sorry I've got to run and get ready for drill tomorrow.

"On the objective!"


  1. Hope the Sherpa family is hanging in through all of it. I know, it's quite a ride for everyone.
    Have I said this yet? Thank you for your service.

    Congrats on the Sandbox. That's really great.
    I'm off to Carmel. It's just time to do something like this.

  2. Congrats on the Sandbox. They have some great stuff over there and you will fit right in.

    I have noticed that the NG's are like the Civil War forces, by State's. Don't know the rules, but the Iowa State Flag should be flown directly below the Stars and Stripes. State pride and all.

  3. Please keep us in the loop (I have a dashboard hula doll already picked out for you and other goodies on the list for your first care parcel ;D)

    [Plotting Downunder]

  4. RedBull has entered The Sandbox! It will never be the same! Rock on brother! Your ILARNG kindred spirit, Jeff Courter, is drilling in Marseilles today. Sends his best your way - especially to your family, since his has "been there" and "done that."

    Keep rolling with those punches and...
    Drill baby DRILL! :-)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.