An Iowa National Guard officer who’s leading a unit in Iraq says morale is high among the troops despite the constant threat of insurgent violence. Major Shannon Richardson, battalion operations officer for the First Battalion, 133rd Infantry, spoke to reporters by phone today (Wednesday) from Camp Al Asad, Iraq.

Major Richardson says their primary mission is to escort supply convoys through the desert and they’re always on guard for I-E-Ds, or improvised explosive devices.
Richardson, of Earlville, says “I don’t want to say they’re very common but the enemy activity is there. Our soldiers are well trained in locating these type of devices, recognizing what they look like, and by far we have found many, many more than what has actually found us.”

About 560 Iowa-based soldiers are on this deployment which began in May. Since then, two soldiers from the battalion have been killed and five have been seriously wounded. Richardson says virtually all of the casualties have been because of I-E-Ds.

He says “It’s a common threat that we encounter or that we have the potential to encounter on almost a daily basis. But our soldiers, they’re very good at knowing what to look for, knowing what doesn’t look right. That’s really, truly benefited our soldiers and made this a very successful mission for us.”

Since May, the battalion has conducted 500 combat logistical patrols, driven more than one-point-seven million miles and escorted more than 73-million gallons of fuel and other commodities. Casualties in war are inevitable and Richardson says they have had losses, but the soldiers continue working toward the goal.

Richardson says “They know that if one of the fellow teammates is injured and can’t operate with them anymore, they say ‘Drive on.’ Of course we go through the grieving process but we know that’s what they’d want us to do, is to drive on and get this mission done.” The battalion is headquartered in Waterloo with units in Dubuque, Iowa Falls, Oelwein and Charles City.