BOISE – After traveling for three days through 400 miles of desert, the 116th Brigade Combat Team has arrived at its first duty station to begin serving its yearlong assignment patrolling northern Iraq.
The unit includes 1,600 Idaho soldiers, part of the 4,300-member team that has been assigned a “stability and security” mission.
Families of Idaho soldiers on assignment in Iraq said they were grateful that the first hazardous assignment had been completed safely.
“She said it was a long three-day drive,” Mark Lotspeich reported after hearing from his wife, Sgt. Cynthia Lotspeich.
Idaho medic Spc. Don Shrader told his wife Friday that soldiers were lined up in Kirkuk for more than 90 minutes to phone home to report their safe arrival after the long convoy.
“He said it was pretty uneventful,” Cheryl Shrader said.
The soldiers completed convoy in several waves, spending their nights in guarded convoy support centers. They had been preparing for the trip from outside Kuwait City since Thanksgiving weekend.
The Idaho National Guard provided few details about the 116th’s move into Iraq, except to say that some soldiers flew while others convoyed on the roads from Kuwait City to northern Iraq and that the trip was without major mishap.
Idaho Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Tim Marsano said the only problems during the convoys were a few minor vehicle mishaps.
The soldiers from the 116th will spend an unspecified number of weeks transitioning into their duties alongside the soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division, whose 4,000 soldiers from Schofield Barracks in Hawaii are being replaced by the 116th.
“Soldiers are beginning to patrol their area of operations in armored vehicles with soldiers who have been conducting operations in Iraq for the past year,” said Brig. Gen. Larry Lafrenz, incoming Idaho National Guard adjutant general. “We expect this phase to enhance our soldiers’ situational awareness as they prepare to take over their mission responsibilities.”