The commander of the Iowa National Guard’s 1st Battalion 133rd Infantry says his troops are disappointed they won’t be coming home soon from Iraq’s Al-Anbar province. In a phone interview from Camp Adder in Iraq, Lieutenant Colonel Ben Corell says they learned of their 125-day extension second-hand.

Corell says the extension was first announced through the media, not through military command channels, as he says it should have been. He says they couldn’t confirm the extension for four days, which concerned the troops as they’d been seeing the news on various media websites and hearing from their families back home. Corell says the Iowa troops are disheartened they won’t be ending their tour of duty in April as originally anticipated, but still, he says they are ready to serve the extra 125 days.

Corell says there’s little impact on morale. He says he and his commanders have talked with the soldiers and talked through the issues. Corell says the unit ministry team and counselors are aware to look for signs of soldiers who are continuing to struggle, for whatever reason, and get them additional support. He says the battalion has done an outstanding job in Iraq so far and that shouldn’t let up with the extension.

The colonel says despite fighting an adaptive enemy, they’ve patrolled over one-point-five million miles through Iraq, they’ve escorted tens of thousands of vehicles, they’ve found hundreds of improvised explosive devices, they’ve upgraded over 200 armored vehicles and they’ve re-enlisted over half of the eligible soldiers. Some 640 soldiers are affected by the extension, with 560 of them from the 133rd, headquartered in Waterloo. Other units of the 133rd are based in Charles City, Iowa Falls, Dubuque, and Oelwein.