Citizen Soldiers Serve Strongly With Support
April 30, 2010
- "Today, the Army Reserve has been transformed from a strategic reserve to an operational force serving proudly throughout the world."
- "There were many a tear shed and many were looking forward to the deployment with intrepidation."
- "It was a lot about supporting U.S. troops and a lot about working with the Iraqi Army."
- The Reserve is "actively involved in improving the lives of people around the world through nation building and humanitarian assistance."
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The local celebration of the 102nd birthday of the Army Reserve involved more than a cake and an exchange of congratulations.
It also included a look at how the Reserve has evolved during its history, reflected in comments made by Steve Taylor, president of the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; and one of the Reserves' commanders, Capt. David Borders, who just returned from leading the 375th Engineer Company in Iraq. They were part of a Reserve birthday breakfast celebration Thursday at Lockheed Martin.
"The United States Army Reserve has a proud and rich 102-year tradition," Taylor said. "Who among its creators could have foreseen the seamless integration between active, Reserve and National Guard Army Soldiers and units that we take for granted today'
"Today, the Army Reserve has been transformed from a strategic reserve to an operational force serving proudly throughout the world with strong support from their families and employers."
Battle, who participated in the deployment ceremony for the 375th within months after being elected Huntsville's mayor, recalled the sadness and pride of that sendoff.
"It was a hard day. There were many a tear shed and many were looking forward to the deployment with intrepidation," Battle said. But that deployment represented "a lot of tradition ... The tradition is we serve, both deployed and those still here."
The mayor read part of a proclamation that designated April 22 as Army Reserve Day in Huntsville.
"Thank you for your service, for what you've done for the nation and our community. You've kept us free," he said.
Borders outlined the mobilization and deployment of the 375th that eventually involved 172 Reserve Soldiers, a mix of Soldiers mostly from North Alabama, Birmingham and Chattanooga with a few from across the nation.
The mobilization began in February 2009, with the unit leaving Huntsville on April 14, 2009, for Fort McCoy, Wis. After a few months of training and preparation, the unit arrived in Kuwait on June 1, 2009.
"During that time, we were preparing and building our team," Borders said. "We built our team from scratch starting in February."
Once in Iraq, the unit replaced three other companies. It was headquartered at Contingency Operation Base Adder southeast of Baghdad, but most of its Soldiers were scattered throughout southeastern Iraq. The unit completed 50 construction missions that included 160 structures built to enhance the safety and quality of life of U.S. Soldiers. In addition, the unit completed more than 40,000 miles in combat patrols in four provinces in southeastern Iraq.
The overall mission, he said, was complex and diverse.
"It was a lot about supporting U.S. troops and a lot about working with the Iraqi Army," Borders said. "We were trying to build up the Iraqi people and their skill set ... We spent a considerable amount of time training Iraqi engineers."
Borders said his Soldiers had to deal with interpretation issues while also training Iraqis in building construction techniques. On their missions, they had to contend with new policies that required the U.S. Army to begin sharing the roads with Iraqi civilians.
"Since they opened up the roads, there were no vehicle IEDs (improvised explosive devices)," Borders said. "It kind of shocked me because I was prepared to go to war and fight if I needed to fight. Turned out it was a transitional war. It was good."
In addition, military bases were allowing Iraqis access. At COB Adder, 20,000 local nationals were working on the base as contractors.
"It was great because we were showing them how to do things. We were showing them step-by-step that this is how you can be successful," Borders said.
"Overall, the climate in Iraq, and the conflict between Iraqis and extremists, is dying down. Now, most of our attention is focusing on Afghanistan. It is the new front line in the war of terror. We are having a responsible drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq."
The front line in Iraq "felt like more of a deployed Garrison instead of a wartime environment," he added, because there was only occasional indirect fire from terrorists.
John Perry, the local AUSA's vice president of Army Reserve Affairs, emceed the birthday celebration. He said the experiences of the 375th are representative of an Army Reserve that is "actively involved in improving the lives of people around the world through nation building and humanitarian assistance, providing quick response for homeland defense missions and natural disasters, and supporting and sustaining the operating force during war."
Today's Army Reserve includes more than 195,000 citizen Soldiers with technical, specialized and professional skills in logistics, transportation, training, health care, engineering, information technology, communication networking and law enforcement, among other capabilities.
Following the program, a Reserve birthday cake was cut with a sword by Borders with the assistance of Sgt. Kenon Mickles and Staff Sgt. Timothy Wallace, both active Reserve members of the 375th Engineer Company.