Nearly 600 Montanans with the Montana Army National Guard’s 1-163rd Combined Arms Battalion are training for a deployment to Iraq in Camp Shelby, MS.
A group of reporters from Montana were able to travel to Camp Shelby, watch some of the training, and talk with some of the soldiers.
Click below to watch a video report by KTVQ-TV’s Amanda Venegas.
The last time the 1-163rd was deployed, it served as an infantry unit as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Maj. Gen. Mick Bednarek says although President Barack Obama has announced the country is gearing down its presence Iraq, it doesn’t mean the country is leaving these soldiers, but instead following through on bringing troops home.
“You ask how one brigade can accomplish the mission of what three brigades used to do. Part of that is our security conditions have clearly improved in Iraq, but more importantly turning more over to our Iraqi partners,” said Maj. Gen. Bednarek.
Maj. Mike Moreni of Billings says this time soldiers will play a different, yet important role in Operation New Dawn.
“The country has made a lot of strides since the first time we were there. We’re going to be doing a completely different mission then what we did before,” said Maj. Moreni.
The Missoulian put together a great read as well, offering insight from the soldiers who will be returning to an Iraq much different than what they saw on the 163rd’s first deployment there back in 2004-2005.
“The last time we were there, we were kicking in doors and looking for bad guys,” said 1st Sgt. Dennis Mora of Great Falls. “We kind of had to treat everyone with some suspicion and some question marks. Now, we’re really there to build relationships and some mutual feelings of respect, so we can get out of there and they can take over.”
“It’s kind of cool when you think about it,” he said. “I’ve been telling my guys that it is really going to be a huge eye-opener for those who were over there before. I think it will be some justification for some of the guys, too, to see just how far the Iraqi government and Iraqi forces have come in five years.”