28 February 2011

The Quest for the Crests, Part 2

It turns out that the item to which soldiers most commonly refer as a "battalion crest" is technically not a "crest," and isn't necessarily specific to a battalion. Instead, the official term for a unit-specific badge is "distinctive unit insignia" (D.U.I.). Companies, battalions, regiments, brigades, and divisions can all have them.

In the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT), soldiers assigned to the headquarters and headquarters companies wear the division insignia (at right), as discussed in part 1 of this series of posts.

In the warfighting "maneuver" units of the 2-34th BCT--infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons--the distinctive unit insignia are "regimental" emblems. These are symbols of a rarely seen, almost vestigial echelon of organization in the U.S. army.

In today's Army, the technical definition of "regiment" is a unit larger than a battalion, but smaller than a brigade. Unlike a brigade, it comprises only units of similar type. By contrast, today's "Brigade Combat Teams" (B.C.T.) contain every type of unit necessary to conduct tactical operations: infantry and intelligence, medical and logistics, artillery and transportation.

In conversation and newsprint, the term "regiment" often gets swallowed, forgotten, or dropped. Hearing a contemporary Iowa soldier refer to his battalion as the "133rd Infantry," for example, isn't quite correct, given that there could still exist multiple battalions stemming from the same regimental lineage. A soldier assigned to the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1/133rd Inf.) would wear the same regimental insignia as a soldier of the currently dormant 2nd Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (2/133rd Inf.).

For a review of the units currently comprising the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT), click here.

Generally, a distinctive unit emblem often incorporates the unit coat-of-arms with an official motto. Here are those of the infantry and cavalry units currently assigned to 2-34th BCT:

1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment

Motto: “Avauncez” (French for "advance" or "forward")

Symbolism: The shield is silver, or white, the old Infantry branch color. The Spanish castle, taken from the Spanish campaign medal, is used to represent the military service outside the continental limits of the United States, while the cactus and fleur-de-lis are for Mexican Border and World War service, respectively.


1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment

Motto: "On Guard"

Symbolism: The shield is white, the old Infantry branch color. The bend in the form of a rainbow shows the service of the 168th Infantry in World War I in the 42nd Division.

The cactus represents the Mexican Border duty and palm tree the Philippine service.


1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment

Motto: "We maintain"

Symbolism: Yellow is the color traditionally associated with Cavalry. The "red horse," symbolizing the popular name of the regiment, is in a rampant position to denote aggressiveness and is bridled to indicate discipline. The prickly pear cactus represents service on the Mexican Border and the fleur-de-lis signifies service in France during World War I of the original 113th Cavalry.


1st Squadron, 134th Cavalry Regiment (Nebraska National Guard)

Motto: "La We, La His" (Pawnee for "The strong, the brave")

Symbolism: The Katipunan sun represents the Phillipine Insurrection and the palm tree the Spanish-American War service. The olla, charged with the bull skull, denotes the World War I service of the organization in the 34th Division.

The snake symbolizes the Mexican border service.

23 February 2011

Bomb-resistant Truck Saves 3 Red Bull Lives

According to news reports and official releases, three soldiers of the Iowa Army National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT) were wounded by an Improvised Explosive Device (I.E.D.) attack approximately 11:45 a.m. local Afghan time, Feb. 21 in Laghman Province. All survived, thanks in part to a half-million-dollar truck manufactured by a company based in the American Midwest.

The injured soldiers, all members of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry "Ironman" Regiment (1/133rd Inf.)--currently operating as "Task Force Ironman"--were evacuated to a U.S. military hospital at Bagram Airfield ("BAF") for medical treatment. Bagram is also the location of the 2-34th BCT headquarters. News reports attribute to the soldiers' respective family members that each is at least regarded as medically "stable."

The names of the injured are:
  • Cpl. Adam P. Eilers, 23, of Garber, Iowa.
  • Spc. Caleb J. Redell, 22, of Erie, Ill.
  • Pfc. Andrew Zimmerman, 20, of Camanche, Iowa.
See the Des Moines Register's report regarding the injured soldiers here, and the official Iowa National Guard news release here.

According to a previously released news report from 2-34th BCT, one that overviews the actions of Alpha Company, 1/133rd Inf. since it arrived in Afghanistan last November, Spc. Zimmerman had previously been injured in an IED attack near Watangatu, a village south of Combat Outpost ("COP") Najil. Zimmerman had been briefly knocked unconscious and received stitches to his face following the Nov. 29 attack.

Radio Iowa reports that the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP, pronounced "em-rap") vehicle was a newer, smaller version called an "MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle" (M-ATV, pronounced "M.A.T.V."). The heavily armored M-ATV, manufactured by Osh Kosh Corp. of Osh Kosh, Wis., cost more than $450,000 each, and are designed to deflect bomb blasts away from the crew. "Certainly, this vehicle saved these soldiers' lives," Iowa National Guard Army Col. Greg Hapgood told Radio Iowa.

According to open news sources, COP Najil sits approximately 25 Kilometers to North North-West from Mehtar Lam, the provincial capital. It sits at the intersection of the Alishang, Dowlat Shah and Mayl Valleys. In a by-lined Army news report filed during the Christmas holiday season, Army Sgt. Ryan Matson described the Alpha Company outpost as "remote, small, and austere." He continued:
The COP is nestled along the base of a mountain, and there is no flat ground; everywhere the servicemembers walk is on a grade. Living conditions are tough, as water for showering and laundry is limited, and the bathrooms are tubes in the ground. There’s no post exchange to be found here; the soldiers are just happy to have power.
In late December, Alpha Company, 1/133rd Inf. successfully defended COP Najil using close-air support ("CAS," pronounced "caz"), skills it first tested the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. (See earlier Red Bull Rising reports about Alpha Company training here.)

In the 2-34th BCT's only other previously reported combat injury, Sgt. Brian M. Pfeiler of Earlsville, Iowa, was injured in early January after stepping on a landmine in Laghman Province's Qarghayeed District. His right leg was amputated below the knee. Pfeiler is a member of Delta Company, 1/133rd Inf.

Elsewhere in Laghman Province this week, Charlie Company, 1/133rd Inf. supported Afghan National Army personnel in "Operation Brass Monkey," an attempt to locate a specific individual in Parwai village, Alingar District. Army news reports indicate that, while the "high-value target" (H.V.T.) was not located, six other persons of interest were detained. The coalition forces also reportedly located explosive device-making materials and intelligence regarding insurgent operations in the area.

21 February 2011

Happy Birthday, Col. Washingon (and Capt. Lincoln)!

By looking at the newspaper ads this morning, those of us who aren't working today will be celebrating Washington's Birthday with the purchase of automobiles, furniture, and white goods: "I cannot tell a lie--the savings are stupendous!"

The holiday commemorates the birth of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Government offices and banks are closed today. For the rest of us, Washington's Birthday is apparently just another excuse to hate public employees and bankers.

I come not to bury this American Caesar, however, I come to praise him. After all, he's one of the archetypes of the U.S. citizen-soldier: He was a citizen who took up arms as part of an organized militia. He was soldier who took off the uniform to serve in a new government. He declined royal trappings and promises of permanent office, and returned instead to life on his farm.

To quote Henry Lee's eulogy for Washington: "A citizen, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

According to Wikipedia, by the way, the official federal holiday is still called "Washington's Birthday"--not "Presidents Day." (There are also some state and regional variations in terms, spelling, and purpose of the holiday.)

While there have been attempts to also officially commemorate on this day the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president, the connection is only an informal one, existing only in the popular mind and in gaudy newspaper advertisements. "A house divided against itself cannot stand--that's why you need a new washer and dryer!"

By law, the federal holiday annually falls between Feb. 15 and 21. Washington was actually born on Feb. 22, 1732. Lincoln was born Feb. 12. 1809.

The National Guard Bureau lists both Washington and Lincoln in its pantheon of U.S. presidents who have also served in uniform.

Here's what it says about each man's military career:

Col. George Washington
In 1753, the governor of Virginia appointed George Washington, a self-reliant young surveyor, as Adjutant with the rank of major over one of the state's four military districts. As a lieutenant colonel in the French and Indian Wars, Washington soon saw first hand the problems faced by citizen-soldiers who left their homes and plows to resist the French. Victorious in their first skirmish, Washington and his Virginians erected Fort Necessity and later had to withdraw. In the retreat Washington won the affection of his men and kept up their spirits with his personal example. In 1775, Washington and his militia joined British General Edward Braddock to clear the French out of the Ohio Valley. Braddock died in battle praising Washington and his blue-clad Virginians for their courage in saving part of the English forces.

From 1758 to 1775, Washington served his home state in a variety of ways. He commanded the Virginia Militia as Colonel Washington. He served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress. When the Continental Congress sought a commander for the Colonial Army, they turned to George Washington of Virginia as the logical choice. Washington's militia experience during the French and Indian Wars stood him in good stead during the American Revolution. He had learned how to get the most out of limited manpower and military stores. More than that, he knew that the esprit de corps of militia, even ill-trained and poorly equipped, could be the fighting equal of British professionals. Washington became the first president of the United States of America in 1789.
Capt. Abraham Lincoln
In 1832, the governor of Illinois called for the state militia to campaign against the Indians under Black Hawk. Black Hawk was the war chief of the Sacs, who had tried to reclaim territories which they had given up by treaties. Young Abraham Lincoln joined a volunteer company and was elected captain. He said later that he had no success in life which gave him so much satisfaction as his experience with the Illinois Militia. When it appeared that his unit would not see service, many of its members disbanded and went home. This group included Abraham Lincoln ... who left because he wanted to be of real service. On the same day Lincoln was mustered out, however, he reenlisted as a private ... in a scouting service sometimes called the Independent Spy Battalion. He was mustered out of the Battalion on June 16, 1832. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln became 16th president of the United States of America.

18 February 2011

2011 Condition of the Iowa National Guard

Certain uniquely Iowa events help mark the passage of time beyond the seasonal ebb and flow of planting and harvesting. Like the state high-school wrestling and basketball tournaments, Pella's Tulip Time Festival, and the Iowa State Fair.

For political junkies and policy wonks, the dead of January also brings the governor's annual "Condition of the State" address, an event that echoes the U.S. presidential tradition of the "State of the Union" address. (In fact, Iowa's event was once called the "State of the State" address, as it is in other states.)

There's also an annual "Condition of the Judiciary" address, given by the chief justice of the state supreme court. And a "Condition of the Guard" address by the Iowa adjutant general--the top-ranking National Guard official in the state. (The National Guards of the 54 U.S. states and territories, unless called to federal service, report to their respective state governors as commander-in-chief.) I've not been able to find any other state that conducts a "Condition of the Guard" speech.

Such events provide an opportunity to reflect on where we've been--as an economy, as a school, as a government, as a military force--and where we may be going.

Army Maj. Gen. Tim Orr gave the 2011 "Condition of the Guard" speech--his second--at the Iowa State capitol Wed., Feb. 16. An excerpt is presented below, with emphasis added. In reading the first paragraph presented here--the one that mentions "more than 16,000 of our men and women"--keep in mind that the assigned strength of the Iowa National Guard is approximately 10,000. Some soldiers have deployed multiple times. Some have retired. Still others have joined up.
Since 9/11, the Soldiers and Airmen of the Iowa National Guard, their families, and their employers have made significant sacrifices on behalf of the American people. More than 65 percent of our Soldiers and Airmen currently serving are combat veterans. More than 16,000 of our men and women have served in the ongoing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, peacekeeping duties in the Balkans and the Sinai Peninsula, and during emergency response missions in Iowa and across the country.

Through multiple combat deployments and domestic support missions, the men and women currently serving in the Iowa National Guard are among the most seasoned and experienced military professionals our state has ever fielded in the more than 170-year history of the Iowa National Guard. [...]

The demand for National Guard forces over the past two decades has required almost continuous use of Active, National Guard, and Reserve forces in order to meet the operational requirements of our armed forces. Our experience during this timeframe has validated the Total Force concept in support of our national security interests.

We are now at a point where current and projected demands for Army and Air Force assets will require continued access to the National Guard and Reserve forces, making very real what has been a policy for some time. This means that the mobilization and operational use of National Guard Soldiers, Airmen, and units will continue for the foreseeable future, despite ongoing reductions in U.S. forces overseas.

The National Guard of the 21st century will require a versatile mix of tailorable, modular and adaptable organizations, interdependently operating on a predictable, rotational deployment cycle. This new concept is what we call the Operational Force, which is part of the Department of Defense’s Total Force Policy.

Over this last year, the Iowa National Guard has remained a national leader in many categories, consistently ranking near the top among the 54 states and territories. The Iowa National Guard remains a national leader in personnel recruiting and retention. Both the Iowa Air and Army National Guard began fiscal year 2011 with over 100 percent of authorized strength. And our retention rates exceed national goals and are among the highest in the nation. We have been at, or exceeded, 100 percent strength every year since 2003 – a significant accomplishment considering that we have been at war as a nation with an all-volunteer force for nearly 10 years. [...]
Read the whole speech in its entirety here.

Read news summaries by the Des Moines Register's William Petroski here, or read and listen to Radio Iowa's coverage here.

16 February 2011

The Quest for the Crests, Part 1

Sometimes, the pursuit of military history seems to be equal parts genealogy, sports statistics, and medieval heraldry. Through my current writing and reading, for example, I've found myself delving into the experiences of 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division soldiers past and present, getting lost in various measurements of team success ("Most days in combat!" "First to land in Europe"!), and researching the meanings of latin mottoes, heraldic symbols, and other esoterica.

I've long meant to present here an exploration of unit crests--the official "distinctive unit insignia" that help tell the history of a unit through pictures. Think of it as a knightly "coat of arms" for a particular unit, with each dragon, rainbow, and lightning bolt symbolizing great deeds, events, and capabilities.

This symbolism is more detailed and specific than that of the unit patch. The "Red Bull" shoulder-patch represents the 34th Infantry Division. All soldiers assigned to the division's headquarters, as well as the division's first and second brigade combat teams (B.C.T.), wear that patch.

A unit crest, however, represents a smaller element within the division--usually a battalion- (approximately 500 troops) or company-sized (approximately 100 troops) unit.

Unit crests are worn by enlisted soldiers as metallic pins placed into the blue "flash" of the U.S. Army beret, and by both enlisted and officers placed on the shoulder epaulets of the green "Class A" uniform, which is in process of being phased out in favor or the blue "Army Service Uniform" by October 2015.

So, if you pay close attention (and if they're wearing the right uniform and/or headgear), you can identify a Red Bull soldier first by the patch on his or her left shoulder, then further identify his or her unit of assignment based the crest they wear.

See? Easy as baseball!

The U.S. Army organization officially responsible for design of unit crests is the United States Army Institute of Heraldry, Fort Belvoir, Va. In fact, the institute provides all U.S. governmental agencies (to include the other service branches) with research, development, and standardization of symbols, badges, flags, and other decorative items. The organization also works to ensure that no two Army units have the same motto.

Heraldic language gets a little flowery and high-falutin'. Take, for example, how the institute website describes the 34th Infantry Division insignia:
A gold color metal and enamel device 1 3/16 inches (3.02 cm) in height consisting of two gold fasces crossed diagonally and superimposed by a black olla bearing a gold fleur-de-lis debruised by a red bovine skull. Attached at top a blue scroll inscribed “ATTACK ATTACK” and attached at bottom a blue scroll inscribed “ATTACK” all in gold letters.
The shape and color of each element in the crest symbolizes an aspect of the unit's history:
Blue reflects the Infantry. The black olla (a Mexican water flask), suggestive of training in New Mexico during World War I, is adapted from the original 34th Infantry Division, shoulder sleeve insignia and conveys the unit’s heritage. The stylized red bovine skull is also taken from that insignia and is symbolic of vitality, courage and strength. The two fasces imply authority and commemorate the unit’s campaign service in Italy during World War II. The gold fleur-de-lis alludes to excellence and the Division’s French Croix de Guerre for service in World War II. The motto, “Attack, Attack, Attack”, was adopted by the Division in 1943 and characterized the nature of the Division’s combat operations for the remainder of World War II.
While soldiers assigned to the headquarters and headquarters company of the currently deployed 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry Division (2-34th BCT) wear the division crest, soldiers of other 2-34th BCT units would wear the insignia of their respective units. Future Red Bull Rising posts will present each of these in detail.

"Attack! Attack! Attack!"

14 February 2011

Review: 'Dudes of War'

Review: "Dudes of War" by Benjamin Tupper

In a second memoir generated from his experiences as a U.S. citizen-soldier deployed to Afghanistan--the first was "Greetings from Afghanistan: Send More Ammo," reviewed here--Benjamin Tupper presents readers with a rogues' gallery of his fellow soldiers: buddies and frenemies, gun freaks and mule-lovers, tobacco-chewers and pornicators. Tupper talks not only about about the guys who made war, he talks about the guys who made war hell for everyone else.

A New York National Guard soldier, Tupper deployed as a 16-member Embedded Training Team (ETT) to Ghanzi and Paktika Provinces. Before his 2006 deployment, he'd also worked in Afghanistan as a civilian non-governmental organization worker.

"Welcome to the war story where nothing goes bang [...]" he writes in his introduction to "Dudes of War." "This second book shoots an entirely different azimuth: To tell the story of the other 99 percent of the time we spend over there; the tasks, chores, and austere conditions that forge today's modern soldier culture."

To tell that story, Tupper profiles a cast of characters constructed of various callsigns, caricatures, and (in one or two cases) composites. Let slip the dudes of war!

The writer's trick is a useful one. By not-naming names, Tupper is able to distill truths good, bad, and ugly from a group of disorderly personalities, the traits of which range from the outrageous and to the compulsively routine. Although brutally candid, he never comes across as mean-spirited. He comes neither to praise these stereotypical soldiers, nor to bury them.

Rather than to air the military's dirty duffel bags, he's out to discuss a laundry list of hard-to-crack and almost-never-discussed topics. For example:
  • The downrange debates between those who loved dogs and those who loved to shoot them.
"The longing for women, or beer, or other vices of American culture cannot be wished away by Army regulations. The hours of boredom that are the fertilizer for political debates, pranks, and ball-busting continue to fill the days," Tupper writes. "The American soldier continues to adapt to and overcome these challenges. The means and methods are sometimes morally questionable and the results sometimes problematic, but the outcome is never in doubt: Dudes will be dudes."

The dude knows what he's talking about.

10 February 2011

Sometimes You Get the Bull ...

When you're a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail. And, when you're steeped in months of research and writing--like the Red Bull Rising blog--everything tends to look like it's connected with your topic.

Take, for example, a couple of recent posts at Tom Ricks' "Best Defense" blog at Foreign Policy magazine, which regarded the World War II origins of combat psychiatry and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.).

The blog posts mention the early published work of Army Dr. (Capt.) Herbert X. Spiegel, a psychiatrist assigned to an unnamed infantry battalion in World War II Tunisia.

The 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division participated in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. My interest was piqued: Perhaps the doctor was a member of a Red Bull unit?

Spiegel ended up a clinical-research pioneer and popularizer of the use of hypnosis. He was once even involved in the treatment of the multiple-personality patient on whom was based the book and movies "Sybil."

Finding out whether Spiegel and the Red Bull were connected turned into a lunch-hour filled with frenzied Internet searches. The academic papers didn't seem to offer specifics of his military service, nor did news articles or obituaries. Ultimately, the 90-percent answer came in the words of his wife and research partner, Dr. Marcia Greenleaf, posted on a 2010 web-tribute to Spiegel:
Herb’s experience in World War II shaped his clinical thinking and research ... As a combat surgeon with the 1st Infantry Division in the invasion of North Africa, he used hypnosis on the battlefield ... Wounded when a German tank broke through the allied ranks, he was awarded the Purple Heart and shipped back to the US ... Assigned to teach military psychiatry at Mason General Hospital, he used hypnosis to treat pain, trauma and anxiety, began his research and his amazing journey with hypnosis and short-term psychotherapy ... He was always ahead of his time. [...]

As an author, Herb’s first publications focused on his experience as a battalion surgeon during the North African campaign in WW II. ... He wrote his first papers on combat psychiatry and physio-neurosis – the first clinical identification of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. [Emphasis added.]
So, there I had it. Spiegel was most likely part of the 1st Infantry Division--the "Big Red One"--still red, but not a Red Bull. The 1st and the 34th divisions hit different beachheads. One went toward Oran, the other toward Algiers. "Sometimes, you get the bull. Sometimes, the bull gets you."

On the other hand, Spiegel seems to have established a professional beachhead of his own, one that launched his later work in hypnosis. He changed--or began to change--how we view PTSD as a military and as a society.

Speigel's early work resonates even to present-day. In addition to Ricks' musings, for example "War" author Sebastian Junger cites Spiegel (see excerpt here) when exploring the battlefield behavior of Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore Giunta:
During World War II, the British and American militaries conducted a series of studies to identify what makes men capable of overcoming their fears. A psychiatrist named Herbert Spiegel, who accompanied American troops on the Tunisia campaign, called it the "X-factor": "Whether this factor was conscious or unconscious is debatable," he wrote for a military journal in 1944, "but this is not so important. The important thing was that it is influenced greatly by devotion to their group or unit, by regard for their leader and by conviction for their cause. In the average soldier, which most of them were, this factor ... enabled men to control their fear and combat their fatigue to a degree that they themselves did not believe possible."

You can see Ricks' blog posts that inspired my little lunch-hour research junket here and here.

Regarding a third PTSD post, less related to WWII, those with an interest in the National Guard would do well to overlook Mr. Ricks' uncharacteristic sleight toward citizen-soldiers--he hypothesizes that "disturbances [may] run even deeper in Guard and Reserve units coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq," citing a 1972 (?!) study that observed "older, less experienced and less educated soldiers were high risk for the development of psychiatric symptoms"--and delve deep into the reader comments. Specifically, be on the lookout for comments from "Hunter." There's some great insights in there!

About that "older and less experienced and less educated" comment, however? I'm not sure that the draft-age U.S. Army National Guard of 1972 is comparable to the operational-reserve National Guard of 2011. At risk of falling into one of my own pet petards regarding blog commenters--too many of us relish argument based on personal experience rather than research--I'll say that I've seen Army National Guard soldiers generally best their active-duty counterparts in terms of maturity, education, work- and life-experience, and established emotional support networks.

I'm not saying that we're perfect--too many of us are dying at our own hands--I'm just saying that we may have different problems. We invite further study.

08 February 2011

The Red Bull Story So Far: 'Halfway There'

Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry “Red Bull” Division (2-34th BCT), recently marked the "halfway home" milestone on their deployment calendars.

The 2-34th BCT comprises approximately 3,000 Iowa and Nebraska National Guard troops. In the largest single deployment of Iowa National Guard troops since World War II, units comprising the brigade began mobilizing in late July and early August 2010. Red Bull units first trained at Camp Shelby, Miss., before conducting realistic war games at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., in late September and early October 2011.

While most units returned to Camp Shelby prior to phased departures to Afghanistan, the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry "Ironman" Regiment (1/133rd Inf.) and select brigade personnel launched directly into country from Fort Irwin. According to news reports, 1/133rd Inf. soldiers captured one Taliban fighter just days after arriving in Afghanistan.

Other Red Bull units gradually arrived in Afghanistan through the end of November 2010. The brigade officially relieved the Vermont National Guard’s 86th BCT at Bagram Airfield (“BAF”) on Dec. 4, 2010. The event nearly coincided with a surprise visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The mission of “Task Force Red Bulls” marks only the second time a U.S. National Guard brigade has been given responsibility for geographic area of operations in Afghanistan. The brigade is under the command of 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” Division, headquartered in Fort Campbell, Kent.

In Army jargon, a "task force" is a battalion-or-larger-sized group of units temporarily organized to address a specific mission. The term can include the addition of personnel from other U.S. and allied armed services, both active-duty or national guard/reserve, as well as civilians.

“[Task Force] Wolverine [86th BCT] was the first National Guard Brigade to serve as a battle space owner here in Afghanistan, and throughout their tenure here, Task Force Wolverine focused on making Afghanistan better for the Afghan people and coalition forces,” said 101st Airborne Division commander Maj. Gen. John Campbell in a Dec. 5 statement. “From partnering with the Afghan National Security Forces ... to increasing capability of local governance ... to implementing and continuing new development programs ... to improving quality of life on Bagram, Task Force Wolverine has set an incredible standard of success.“

He continued, “Their successors, the 2-34 IBCT ‘Red Bulls’ from the Iowa National Guard have some big shoes to fill, but I am confident they will meet the challenges of this deployment with success. I have seen many of the Task Force Red Bulls soldiers on my battlefield circulation, and I have seen first-hand that they are well disciplined and well trained. I am confident that under the leadership of COL Ben Corell and CSM Joel Arnold that Task Force Red Bulls is exactly the right unit to continue capitalizing on the successes of Task Force Wolverine. Welcome to Afghanistan, Red Bulls!”

Task Force Red Bulls comprises:
  • Headquarters, 2-34th BCT, Boone, Iowa.
  • 334th Brigade Support Battalion, headquartered in Johnston. The 334th BSB is commanded by Lt. Col. John Perkins, assisted by Command Sgt. Maj. Willie Adams. As "Task Force Archer," the unit is responsible for the operation of Bagram Airfield, an installation of approximately 30,000 U.S. and other personnel. The unit also provides logistical, maintenance, and medical support to the brigade.
  • 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion (BSTB), 34th Infantry Division (2/34th BSTB), headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The 2/34th BSTB is commanded by Lt. Col. Allyn Gronewold, assisted by Command Sgt. Maj. Christine Short. Due to requirements surrounding the Bagram base operations mission, much of the 2/34th BSTB has been task-organized under 334th BSB.
  • 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment (1/113th Cav.), headquartered in Sioux City, Iowa, is commanded by Lt. Col. David Updegraff, assisted by Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Wayman. As "Task Force Red Horse," the 1/113th Cav. is responsible for security operations around Bagram Airfield and in surrounding Parwan Province.
  • Personnel of Iowa’s 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery (1/194th FA) have been distributed throughout the brigade. The 1/194th FA is headquartered in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and is commanded by Lt. Col. John Cunningham, assisted by Command Sgt. Maj. David Enright.
  • 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry "Ironman" Regiment (1/133rd Inf.), headquartered in Waterloo. The 1/133rd Inf. is commanded by Lt. Col. Steven Kremer and Command Sgt. Maj. Marcus Mittvalsky. The 1/133rd Inf. is currently operating in Laghman Province. Ironman soldiers recently described 'average' days in this Army news release.
The other of the 2-34th BCT’s two organic infantry battalions has been attached to units outside the Task Force Red Bulls area of operation: 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (1/168th Inf.), headquartered in Council Bluffs. The 1/168th Inf. is commanded by Lt. Col. Steve Boesen, assisted by Command Sgt. Maj. Duane Hinman. The unit is currently operating in Paktia Province.

Until recently, the 1/168th Inf. had been operating under "Task Force Rakkasan," led by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (3/101st BCT). The Rakassans were recently relieved by 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division of Fort Knox, Kent., however, and the Iowa unit now reports to "Task Force Duke."

The Nebraska National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 134th Cavalry Regiment (1/134th Cav.), headquartered in Lincoln., Neb., also deployed with the 2-34th BCT. The unit is commanded by Lt. Col. Tom Rynders, assisted by Command Sgt. Maj. Marty Baker. As "Task Force Fury," the 1/134th Cav. trains and mentors Afghan police personnel in and around the Afghan capital of Kabul. This National Guard news article describes recent 1/134th Cav. operations.

Iowa soldiers deployed with the 2-34th BCT wear the Red Bull patch on their left shoulders, and are authorized to wear the patch as “shoulder sleeve insignia” (SSI) more commonly referred to as a “combat patch.” Slang terms for a soldier wearing a Red Bull patch on each shoulder can include: “Wearing the ‘Double-Bull’” and “Wearing the ‘Steak-Sandwich.’”

Living conditions for Red Bull soldiers in Afghanistan range from the densely packed Bagram Airfield, in which soldiers are bunked in multi-level stacks of air-conditioned and heated semi-trailer containers, to austere platoon- and company-sized Combat Outposts (“COP”), in which soldiers do laundry in 5-gallon cans filled with river water, lack hot showers and Internet access, and must burn toilet waste.

In early January 2011, the brigade suffered its only reported combat casualty to-date, when Sgt. Brian Fieler, 27, was injured after stepping on a landmine in Laghman Province. The Earlville, Iowa, soldier lost the lower portion of one leg.

The 2010 deployment is not the first time the Red Bull patch has been seen in Afghanistan. In 2004-2005, nearly 1,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers deployed as “Task Force 168,” where they provided security for Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) sites across the country.

In other connections to Red Bull history, 2-34th BCT commander COL Ben Corell and CSM Joel Arnold were in charge of the 1/133rd Inf. during its deployment with the Minnesota’s National Guard’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, 2005 to 2007. Included as part of a U.S. troop "surge," the 22-month deployment was the longest continuous deployment to Iraq of any U.S. Army unit. Members of Nebraska’s 1/134th Cav. also participated in that deployment as part of 1st Squadron, 167th Cavalry Regiment (1/167th Cav.).