The Iowa National Guard is on the verge of a very good ending to 2008. Iowa National Guard soldiers have been at the forefront of the war on terror since the attacks of September 11th. Twenty Iowa guard soldiers have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, but it looks as though this year will end without another name added to that list.
Guard spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood, says there have not been any soldiers who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan this year. Hapgood says part of the reason for no fatalities is that there are fewer soldiers in dangerous roles.
Hapgood says the number of soldiers on active duty has dropped since the peak of deployment in the spring of 2004 when some 3,500 Iowa Guard soldiers and airmen were deployed overseas at this time.
He says the number of Iowans on active duty has steadily declined there are now around 1,000 soldiers who are overseas, in training, or on their way home from active duty. Iowa soldiers participated in some of the most dangerous activities in Iraq, such as convoys across the country.
Hapgood says they still have soldiers involved in convoys, but the security and tactics have changed to make things safer. He says they now have units that are specifically providing security for convoys and a good system has been worked out that has dramatically increased the safety of those convoys. Hapgood says the duty for soldiers this year focused more on flood and tornado recovery.
Hapgood says more than four thousand guard soldiers activated to fight the floods this year, which was the largest call out of Iowa soldiers since the Civil War. He says the themes change for the soldiers each year, but the mission is always the same “be ready” whether it be fighting disasters at home in the U.S. or somewhere overseas.
The Iowa Guard will see a change in leadership in the new year, as Colonel Tim Orr will take over for General Ron Dardis who is retiring in January.