In a historic deployment, the Texas National Guard 36th Infantry Division headquarters is deploying to southern Iraq. See San Antonio Express News report. This will be one of the very few times since World War II that a Guard headquarters has commanded active duty troops. The first time since WWII occurred when when the 36th Division headquarters deployed to Bosnia in the late 1990’s. The second was when the 42 Infantry Division headquarters, New York state Guard, deployed to Iraq. I served in Iraq with the New York boys. They were good soldiers.
Now, in the seventh or eighth year of the war, many Guardsmen and Guardswomen have served multiple tours. They serve with no regrets. The 36th Headquarters will sit in Basra, a city that has been relatively stable in the past year or so. The headquarters staff include some 800 senior officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel.
Because it is a Guard unit, you get a wide variety of ages, from 19 years old to 59. The staff also includes seven married couples. The news report does not mention other families, but since this is a Guard unit, I am sure there are a few father and son/daughter combinations and siblings serving on staff. When I was In Iraq, I worked with a female warrant officer very closely. Her son also deployed as an Infantryman. The warrant officer, Tammy Kostoff from idaho and I went to Kirkuk for operational reasons. She visited her son while we were there. He got in the back of a HMMWV with his buddies and said bye. CW3 Kostoff told him "I love you." As he drove off, I teased her and said, "don’t say that in front of his buddies." She laughed and said, no, they all know me."
CW3 Kostoff was originally not slated to go to Iraq back in 2004. But, since her son was alerted, she wanted to deploy with him. She had to trade staff positions with another officer to find a way to go.
There was a CW2 in the 42 ID. The story he shared with me was that he was a Leiutenant-Colonel in Field Artillery. He left the 42 ID awhile to attend training. When he returned, he was supposed to command the Division Field Artillery and deploy with the 42 ID to Iraq. That would have resulted in promotion to full Colonel.
But, while he was gone, they put someone else in his position. He was determined to deploy with his unit. So, he resigned his commission and got some deal where he was made a Chief Warrant Officer instantly and deployed with the 42 ID. He was a pleasure to serve with. He never acted like he should have been a colonel. He was just a good soldier, serving with little recognition for making a big sacrifice.
Guard soldiers bring a unique skill set to the current wars. Our civilian skills are as important as our military skills. The two wars require killing, of course. But, the path to victory depends more on public relations than killing bad guys. We win when the Iraqis and Afghanis have enough faith in their governments to not support the rebels.
So, backgrounds in running a small business, farming, or preparing statements of work for a project are critical in today’s wars. When the 42 ID left, they were replaced by an active duty division headquarters, the 101st Division. We had a lot of money to spend on projects. We invested in projects to improve the Iraqi infrastructure. These projects helped make the area more secure and showed the Iraqis we were not there simply to colonize them.
My new boss, the 101st Division Chief of Staff was a tough Colonel from the Ranger regiment. Soft-spoken, but very direct and smart as a whip. I was describing the process of obtaining bids for projects. I explained that one to two weeks was not enough time to solicit bids. To obtain a bid from Iraqi contractors, our officers would communicate usually via email. Contractors would respond when they would respond. We were in a constrained environment, but we still expected detailed statements or work from the contractors. Of course, being Iraqi, they would have to get the SOW’s translated into English. So, the process was lengthy.
These projects typically cost $15-50,000. After I finished explaining, the Colonel, said no, one or two weeks is enough. No debate, no question. He had heard enough. The colonel had only been in country a few weeks himself and in the "saddle" running this sector for one or two weeks. I had been there for six months. Surprised, i then realized he has probably never even seen a statement of work. Being a very busy career officer, he he may have only purchased a home once or twice in his career, moving every 2-3 years. He had no idea what was involved in preparing bid packages. I never had that trouble with the Guard guys and gals from New York. One of the key civil affairs lieutenant-colonels with the 42 ID had his own plumbing business. Another key senior officer was a stock broker on Wall Street. They knew what it took to run a business. The active duty guys had no first hand experience.