A sendoff ceremony will be held this morning for 100 Iowa National Guard soldiers who are headed to Afghanistan. Guard spokesman Colonel Greg Hapgood says the soldiers are with the 833rd Engineer Company based in Ottumwa.
“This unit is ready to deploy. They’ve been training for a number of months now to prepare themselves for this mission,” Hapgood says. “They’ll go to Fort Bliss, Texas for several weeks to do some real specific mission training and then they’ll head to Afghanistan. They’ll be gone about a year total.”
Most of the soldiers with the 833rd live in southeast Iowa, some are from central and north-central Iowa. They’re trained to tackle some dangerous missions. “Their main focus is on removing different types of obstacles to help coalition forces get where they need to be. They are particularly adept at identifying and neutralizing improvised explosive devices,” Hapgood says.
One of the key reasons the 833rd was selected for the mission is the unit’s experience. “This unit has deployed two times previously, so this will be their third deployment. They have done a tremendous job of identifying and removing improvised explosive devices,” Hapgood says. “It is a job that takes a significant amount of focus and these soldiers are certainly dedicated to what they do and they’re ready to go do it.” The unit previously served tours in Iraq from October 2004 to December 2005 and again from June 2007 to June 2008.
Today’s sendoff ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the Hellyer Student Life Center at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa. Hapgood says, with the addition of the 833rd, there will be roughly 260 Iowa National Guard soldiers or airmen on active deployment and most of them are – or soon will be – in Afghanistan.