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Posted on Mar 28, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Red Bulls in Iraq – Pt. 1

By Cpt. Fernando A Franco

The squad leader approached the intersection with caution. He had information that some insurgents were in the area and could have planted IEDs (improvised explosives devices) on the road leading to the small village. The eyes of the soldiers in the patrol were scanning every inch of the road and the burned out cars lying alongside it. A sign from the squad leader brought everybody to a halt and their muscles prepared to jump into action.

An elderly man accompanied by several villagers approached the patrol. Through the interpreter, we learned from the sheik that the insurgents had left the village a few hours earlier. The squad leader requested permission to search the buildings. Once the search was finished, the patrol left the village but not before thanking the sheik and promising to come back with medical supplies. It was at this moment when the machine gun fire sent everyone scrambling for cover and reacting to the ambush. Thanks to the instinctive muscle memory of the soldiers, gained by training the drill over and over until it became second nature, they were able to overcome the ambush and capture the insurgent and small arms cache.


Image from the Red Bulls website – troops fan out on a training exercise

The above scenario was one of the many drills that the soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1 BCT) 34 Infantry Division (ID) of the MN Army National Guard rehearsed at Camp Shelby, MS, in preparation for a one-year deployment to Iraq.

Hello, I am CPT Fernando A. Franco; I am assigned to 1 BCT / 34 ID of the MN National Guard. Thanks to the kind invitation of Armchair General, I will be sending periodical reports on the units from our Brigade throughout our deployment to "The Sand Box.” For security reasons, of course, I will not be able to give specifics on the mission or location of the Brigade through Iraq.

The 1 / 34 ID – The Red Bulls – will spend the next year supporting the efforts in Iraq. Comprised mainly of soldiers from Minnesota, with units from Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, and Nebraska. Many of the soldiers are veterans from the Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and OIF, which brings together a lot of experience and makes this Brigade one of the finest among the units serving in Iraq. It is the only NG BDE in theater at this time.

Image from the Red Bulls website, M998 "Hum-vees" practice their patrols

No matter the heritage of your unit or the ribbons that hang from your unit guidon, deployments are never easy. I don’t know any soldier – reservist or regular Army – who wants to leave family and friends behind, tell an employer you won’t be punching in for the next year or so, put home projects and the “honey do list” on hold, or – probably toughest of all – tell his kids that he’ll miss their games, birthdays, and the I-just-want-to-hug-you moments. All of this starts with the notification of deployment and training for the mission. The hard part is that at the same time, part of you also begins to look ahead to becoming one with your unit for the length of the deployment. Now, privates and field grade officers alike look out for each other, knowing that any movements and decisions made will have repercussions down the line.

As the mission progresses, I will give you periodical updates. I hope you enjoy them. I really appreciate the opportunity to write for ACG, also you can send your comments or suggestions on what you want me to cover in the articles to my email. I probably won’t have time for individual responses but I will try to address your suggestions in my future articles. You can learn more about the 1/34 BCT at our website.