100 Arkansas guardsmen headed to Afghanistan | News
HARRISBURG, AR (KAIT) - Another Region 8 national guard unit will soon be deploying to Afghanistan.
The 1039th Engineer company, part of the 875th Engineer Battalion, will leave Saturday. This unit has not deployed since 2006 when it went to Iraq with the entire battalion.
When you think of engineers you normally think of dump trucks and bulldozers and road graders. But once they are in theater in Afghanistan their mission becomes a lot more complicated than just hauling dirt and a lot more dangerous.
Unit Commander, Captain Seth Jacobs stood in the drill hall as his men packed up rifles and machine guns and file cabinets on pallets in preparatory to loading them on semi trailers parked outside. Jacobs said their mission can be dangerous at times.
"We have a route clearing mission which is using the MRAP vehicles to locate and find IED's to make sure the route is clear." MRAP vehicles are large heavily armored trucks used in the Afghan and Iraq combat zones.
Recently the unit returned from Fort Chaffee over in Western Arkansas where they practiced on a smaller scale the kind of mission they will be doing for real. Captain Jacobs says the more you train the better off you are.
Jacobs, "You have to rely on the training we have done and the equipment that the army provides us."
100 members will be deploying, this is an all male unit. This unit last deployed to Iraq in 2006. Many of the members are fairly new to the guard and will be facing their first deployment, but not all are rookies.
Jacobs, "Probably 35 - 40 % of them have previous combat experience and probably another 20% have 2 or more tours. So we have a lot of new guys but we have a lot of experience in the company too."
Specialist 4 Kyle Barboza will be deploying for the first time. He admits to being a little nervous.
"A little bit maybe . I'm just ready to get over there to do my part and defend my country."
Barboza's job will be to keep the vital communications equipment up and running.
"We have been reading the TM's (training manuals) and getting familiar with the equipment over there." said Barboza. He says the other new guys are a little bit nervous. "It's our first time and we don't know what to expect but I think all the training we have gone through will help us."
Captain Jacobs said his troops are ready.
Jacobs, "From my perspective, morale is really high. I know they are ready to get to Fort Bliss until we get there and then they are going to be ready to get in country because you do all this training and are anxious to get started on what you've been training for."
The unit will train for 2 months at Fort Bliss, Texas which has terrain very similar to Afghanistan then leave from there and go overseas. They should be back in-country around the end of June of 2013.