The commander of the Iowa National Guard soldiers who’re deployed in Afghanistan says they are settling in and getting used to the mission they have ahead of them. Colonel Ben Corell spoke with reporters via a conference call today, and says while there are some reports that the Afghan people have grown tired of having the soldiers in their country, he has not seen that attitude.
Corell says he uses the children as a barometer and he says the children run up to the vehicles when they see soldiers on the road, and they are not asking for anything, they are happy to see them. “They are giving us the thumbs up, they are smiling and waving…from my experiences in Iraq that tells me that their parents have a positive outlook on coalition forces,” Corell says.
Corell says he has walked down the streets and even with the language barrier he is able to make eye contact and tell if the people have a contempt for him being there. Corell says he has not seen that contempt, he has seen smiles, he has seen neutral looks, but the majority of what he has seen is tolerant.
Some 2,800 Iowa Guard soldiers were deployed, along with a couple of hundred Nebraska soldiers. Corell says just about everyone is now in place. Corell says there have been some challenges getting all the personnel and equipment into the country and then out to all the remote bases. Corell says they have spent a lot of time with the unit they are replacing. He says that other unit has helped to show them how everything works as they take over.
Corell has been deployed to Iraq and he says there are some differences, mainly in the infrastructure of the roadways. Corell says there are a lot of trail systems in Afghanistan that don’t really support the up-armored vehicles, while in Iraq there were very few areas where there weren’t paved roads. He says they are much closer to the population in Afghanistan than they were in Iraq.
One thing remains the same for both countries. “This is a very dangerous place, just like Iraq was,” Corell says, “at times you look at the mountains and think that’s just a beautiful sight, but you always need to remember that this is a very dangerous place just like Iraq was. You need to remember that always.”
Corell says the Iowa soldiers have already had contact with the enemy and have fought back. He says no Iowa soldiers have been injured in those actions. The soldiers from Iowa come from all across the state and it is the largest guard deployment since World War Two.