N.D. soldiers remain in Iraq

From a news release:

Despite the drawdown of troops in Iraq, about 60 North Dakota National Guardsmen remain. Eight of those serve with the 1st Battalion, 188thAir Defense Artillery Regiment, led by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Kraft of Devils Lake. The soldiers support a wide range of daily operations in U.S. Division-North, Iraq, utilizing the Sentinel Radar on two separate bases in the 3rd Infantry Division-led USD-North.

This is the first time North Dakota soldiers have used the AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel Radar in a combat zone. The Sentinel can alert short-range air-defense weapons to sites of hostile targets.

When they first arrived to Iraq, the soldiers were separated among four locations. The North Dakota Guardsmen all worked in multiple Brigade Air Defense and Air Management cells spread throughout northern Iraq. Sgt. Matthew Shere, of Duluth, Minn., is the Sentinel Radar noncommissioned officer-in-charge at Forward Operating Base Warrior, near Kirkuk, where he reflected on his mission: “The mission has been a great success thus far, and it’s nice to know that we are an integral part of daily operations.”

Throughout their time in Iraq, the soldiers of the 1-188th ADA’s mission is to utilize the Sentinel Radar to coordinate and deconflict airspace throughout Iraq. This includes deconflicting aircraft, mortar fire missions, unmanned aerial systems, controlled detonations, close air support, attack weapon teams, show of force missions, troops in contact, countering indirect fire, and conducting air assault missions. 

This long list of demands has kept these soldiers extremely busy and impressed a countless number of people along the way.

“These soldiers have done a tremendous job and have represented the state of North Dakota extremely well throughout this entire deployment,” Kraft said.

The maintenance of the Sentinel Radar is a large task all in itself. To allow the radar to be capable of running 24/7, the soldiers spent a countless number of hours learning more about its advanced internal systems.

While Shere and his team remained at FOB Warrior the entire year, the others have returned to Contingency Operating Base Speicher to work in the 3rd Infantry Division Air & Missile Defense section. It’s an around-the-clock job in which the soldiers monitor airspace for outside missile and aircraft threats to U.S. Division-North.

The ADA soldiers in Iraq mobilized Nov. 30, 2009. They are all expected to return home this fall from the yearlong mission. When in North Dakota, the ADA is headquartered in Grand Forks, with units also in Bismarck and Fargo.