By By Staff Sgt. Amy Wieser WillsonMarch 12, 2010
FARGO, N.D. - Deployed commanders with the North Dakota Army National Guard provided updates from overseas via phone with attendees at the North Dakota National Guard's Professional Development Workshop and Combined Associations Conference in Fargo today.
Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, commander of Multi-National Battle Group East in Kosovo, started by providing an overview of the sectors NATO forces operate in throughout Kosovo. About 650 North Dakota Army National Guard Soldiers have served in Kosovo since October.
"From 1 November through today, we've been in a constant state of transition and that will probably continue until we leave sometime in July," he said.
NATO forces in Kosovo recently shifted to a Deterrent Presence phase of operations and are moving from 14,000 troops to 10,000.
The mission sets for Multi-National Battle Group-East include force protection, intelligence-driven patrols, crowd and riot control as a third-level responder, key leader engagements, Kosovo-wide operations, strategic communications and the joint visitors' bureau.
Capt. Walyn Vannurden called in from Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan at 11:45 p.m. his time to talk about the RAID (Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment) IV mission, which is coupled with the Sentinel Radar mission. Vannurden commands about 65 Soldiers performing the surveillance missions in Afghanistan as well as a small detachment in Iraq.
In Afghanistan, the Soldiers are spread across nine bases, and in Iraq, North Dakota's eight Sentinel Radar Soldiers operate from three bases. The unit mobilized in November for the expected yearlong deployment.
Capt. Doug Larsen, commander of Company C of the 2/285th Aviation Assault Battalion, further discussed Iraq missions. His unit deployed in October as a utility helicopter company, and is stationed at Contingency Operating Base Basrah in southern Iraq. More than half - 52 percent - of Company C hails from North Dakota, with 44 percent from Utah and 4 percent from Arizona.
The unit has performed a variety of aviation missions, from serving as a quick reaction force, to providing medical evacuation to escorting dignitaries.
"We've had four-stars, Iraqi generals, privates, all the way up to the Pussycat Dolls," a band that performed in Iraq, Larsen said of the people they have transported while deployed.
He said Company C replaced two companies, "so the pace has been pretty intense." On average, each crew member already has more than 100 combat hours of experience despite only a few months in country.
"We've got to be on our toes, and it's quite an experience," Larsen said.
Throughout their updates, all of the deployed commanders shared lessons they have learned and surprises - both positive and negative - they encountered during the mobilization process in order to enhance success on future missions North Dakota Guardsmen may be called on to perform.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 800 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.