The Iowa Army National Guard’s 224th Engineer Battalion left today (Thursday) for at least 15 months of active duty — with send-off ceremonies n Fairfield, Ottumwa, Mt. Pleasant, Burlington, and Keokuk. The current mobilization of the 500 soldiers in the 224th would be one of the largest single units mobilized since 9-11, with the number of Iowa troops on active duty expected to be near 2,000 by the end of the year. Iowa Guard spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Hapgood told the 224th Headquarters and Headquarters Company in Fairfield that the community support was overwhelming. “This is a great testimony to your caring and support of these soldiers, and the duty and sacrifices they are making not only for their country, but for each one of us.” The 224th will spend time training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma until the Army says they are ready. Captain Dan Meador, the 224th’s Supply and Logistics Officer, says the training will be comprehensive enough so that soldiers will be able to do their jobs almost automatically. “We’ll train up on different tasks we need to be proficient on before we get to theater. I think the Army is doing a terrific job of training our soldiers to make sure that they know exactly what they need to do and they can do it – it just becomes an automatic task for them.” The missions of the 224th are to remove physical obstacles, identify and reduce minefields, construct protective positions, repair bridges and roadways, and general infantry missions. Battalion Commander Lietenant Colonel Todd Jacobus says the troops will likely be split up so their efforts can be more focused. “There’s a good chance that the organization will be what we call task organized to maybe a constuction battalion to pull security on their job sites. So there’s a very good possibility that we will not remain as an organic battalion.” The 224th was placed on alert in April, and activated in August.