Christmas in Iraq — it’s likely not what Iowa National Guardsmen had in mind when they signed up, but one commander from the Manchester area says spirits are high, even though they’re thousands of miles from home as the holidays approach.
Major Shannon Richardson is battalion operations officer for the Waterloo-based First Battalion, 133rd Infantry. Major Richardson, of Earlville, says the troops under his command at Camp Al Asad have great morale.
Speaking to Radio Iowa via satellite-phone from Iraq, Richardson says “They know their mission and they’re dedicated to accomplishing that. It just shows throughout. You don’t see soldiers walking with their heads hanging down. They’re proud of what they’ve been doing. They know they’ve done a very excellent job. People back in the States should know these guys are giving it everything they’ve got.”
He gives at least partial credit for everyone’s can-do attitude to the continued reinforcements from loved ones back in Iowa and elsewhere in the U.S. Richardson says “The support from back home is overwhelming. All the family support groups are just — it’s phenomenal what these family members are doing for the soldiers over here. The local communities, you couldn’t ask for anything better.”
He says you might expect some soldiers to be down as the year-end holidays near but he says the solid show of support from home goes a very long ways — support in the form of phone calls, e-mail, letters and packages.
Richardson says “Our mailrooms are just overwhelmed with packages of stuff. The guys will get a package in and open it up and it may be for a particular guy and he’ll open it up and he’ll share it with everybody that’s around them. The support from back home is just phenomenal.”
About 560 Iowa-based soldiers are on this deployment. While the battalion is headquartered in Waterloo, it is also comprised of units from Dubuque, Iowa Falls, Oelwein and Charles City.