17 March 2011

Iowa Newspaper Team Arrives Downrange

Despite yesterday's Red Bull Rising blog post, the Omaha World-Herald isn't the only newspaper with a team in Red Bull territory. This week, the Des Moines (Iowa) Register's writer Tony Leys and photographer Rodney White have reportedly arrived in Afghanistan's Paktiya Province, where they'll begin their on-the-ground coverage of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT) troops deployed there since November 2010.

The Register's "Iowa National Guard" blog has long appeared in the Red Bull Rising blog-roll, at right. Leys and White will continue to update the blog with snapshots of soldierly life, duty, and downtime downrange. There's an improved graphic interface featuring the newspaper's past and present coverage of the deployment here. Readers can also follow some of the newspaper's deployment coverage via Facebook here.

Paktiya Province is the area of operation for 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (1-168th Inf.), headquartered in Council Bluffs.

Unlike other 2-34th BCT units, which are operating at "Task Force Red Bulls" in Parwan, Panjshir, Laghman, and other contiguous provinces, the Council Bluffs unit falls under Task Force Duke, an active-duty organization centered on the guidon of 3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division (3-1st BCT), of Fort Knox, Kent. Previously in the Iowa National Guard deployment, 1-168th Inf. answered to the 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division's (3-101st BCT) Task Force Rakkasan.

While still settling into his own reportorial rhythm, Leys seems to be picking up on a typically Iowan confident-but-cautious vibe. Take for example, this excerpt of his Mar. 16 report:
The battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. Steve Boesen, said the next few months will be a major test of American and Afghan government efforts to protect civilians from the Taliban. “I think we’re going to see some of the heaviest fighting we’ve ever seen in Afghanistan this summer,” he said. “And my guys will be at the tip of the spear.”

However, several soldiers said they don’t want folks back home to get an exaggerated impression of the violence they face.

Armored trucks have hit roadside bombs, and Iowa platoons have been in a few firefights. “But it’s not like we’re storming the beaches of Normandy every day,” said Spec. Josh Gottschalk, a medic from Minden.

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