The Iowa National Guard’s leader delivered the annual “Condition of the Guard” address this week, and Adjutant General Ron Dardis used the occasion to single out several units and soldiers for praise. His first thank you, though, went to state legislators and the governor for the dollars state government has committed to the guard. “It’s a great honor for me to stand before you today and represent the wonderful men and women of the Iowa National Guard,” Dardis said. “On their behalf, I want to say a heartfelt ‘Thank you’ for all you have done for us to assist us in building a world-class organization.”
Dardis said evidence of that “world-class” status is shown by the performance of Iowa Guard units called to active duty. Five-hundred Guard soldiers from a southeast Iowa unit helped reduce the threat of those I-E-Ds — improvised explosive devices. “When they arrived, only 30 percent of the I.E.D.s were detected and disarmed, meaning that 70 percent were detonated on our coalition forces. By the time the 224th left Iraq, they had completely reversed the numbers,” Dardis said. “Through good, old-fashioned Iowa ingenuity along with assistance from the business community the 224th developed an I.E.D. detection protocol…that is used today in Iraq.”
The soldiers in the unit found and safely destroyed nearly six-hundred of those improvised bombs, and cleared more than 16-thousand miles of roadway in Iraq in the process. Sixty soldiers from another Iowa Guard unit helped train Iraqis on border patrols, and Dardis said they proved their mettle during their tour which ended in February of 2005.
During the first part of its deployment, the unit supervised Iraqis patrolling the Iraq/Turkey border, then it was sent to Mosul to conduct surveillance and security patrols as well search out roadside bombs. One soldier in the unit was awarded the Purple Heart and three others received Bronze Stars.
Another Iowa unit helped bring modern farming methods to Afghanistan. The soldiers looked across a barren stretch of Afghani farmland and saw an opportunity, according to Dardis. The group of Iowans worked with experts back in Iowa and in the U-S-D-A to develop the largest agricultural test-plot in Afghanistan. It showed Afghan farmers how to improve corn yields by planting corn in rows rather than scattering the seeds on the ground. Dardis saluted several other units and individual soldiers for their service. “Are your soldiers and airmen making a difference?” Dardis asked. “You bet they are.” Dardis also read the names of the nine Iowa Nationl Guard soldiers who’ve been killed on active duty in the past 18 months.