Washington National Guard Protects and Serves 13th ESC
August 25, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - At the most basic level, Soldiers live, fight and sometimes die in close-knit fire teams. For one team, holding a life in their hands and protecting it is just another part of their job.
Roughly 60 percent of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) is made up of National Guard and Reserve component Soldiers. However, one platoon of Guardsmen from the United States' capitol does not just sustain the fight; they protect and serve.
The 547th Transportation Company's second platoon, Washington National Guard was tasked with providing a personal security detail for the commanding general of the 13th ESC during the unit's tour here at Joint Base Balad.
"Due to the law enforcement background of many Soldiers, during our initial train-up, our platoon was selected to provide the PSD for the CG," said 1st Lt. Connor Norris, the PSD platoon leader with the 547th Trans. Co., 49th Transportation Battalion.
During the unit's mobilization training at Camp Shelby, Miss., they were augmented by Soldiers from the 155th Armored Brigade, Mississippi National Guard. Many of the Soldiers, from both Washington and Mississippi, volunteered for this deployment.
"We're like a small family now," said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Tarver, a platoon sergeant and augmented Soldier from the 155th, on his third deployment to the Persian Gulf region.
During their initial training, the newly formed PSD platoon focused on teamwork to accomplish their mission, said Tarver, a Poplarville, Miss. native.
"When we first met, we didn't know each other, but now we all work together pretty well," he said.
The platoon underwent training to learn how to protect individuals they refer to as the principle. They also trained on mounted and dismounted operations, reflexive fire, movement under fire and reacting under fire. These myriad training events focused primarily on the principle.
"If something happens, it's everybody's job to react and to get the principle out; that is the mission," said Tarver. "These guys know it's all about protecting the principle, they know what that means."
In today's all-volunteer force, Soldiers consistently choose to stay in the Army despite the deployments, hardships and dangers of military life. The Soldiers of the PSD are no different in their values.
"I could be at Walter Reed if something were to go wrong here," said Spc. James Curtis, a truck driver with the PSD platoon from the Washington National Guard, who is on his second deployment. "I was lucky the first time. I thought to myself, 'Curtis you may not be as lucky the next time.' I hesitated, but I decided to volunteer to go again anyway."
Curtis said he knows all too well the luck of war. He sees wounded warriors on a daily basis at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he is employed as a security officer. Every day he stands watch as Soldiers who have suffered the horrors of war go through the revolving door - some with wounds clearly visible, others whose pain is below the surface, but just as profound, he said.
"Working there makes me appreciate everything I have," he said. "That's why I decided to volunteer for this deployment."
The all-volunteer force is an environment conducive to training and development of junior leaders in the PSD to be the future, senior leaders of the unit because they want to be here. The unit works as a team, so day-to-day operations are often entrusted to the junior leaders, the sergeants and staff sergeants, Tarver said.
"I am very pleased with these guys," said Tarver. "They do a little bit of everything and they're really doing a great job."
Norris said he agreed with his counterpart.
"They're truly a great group," Norris said. "They just make my job easy."
Even with such a high-visibility mission, the officers, commissioned and noncommissioned, never lose sight of the future: those junior Soldiers who look to them for leadership. Curtis said he appreciates this commitment.
"I'm pretty impressed to be surrounded by so much experience," said Curtis. "We really came together as a family and I trust these guys."