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AL ASAD, Iraq ? Army Sgt. Daniel Carden, sergeant of the guard with the 1st Battalion of the 109th (Mechanized) Infantry and Carbondale, Pa., native, drives around the several observation posts his soldiers are manning to ensure they have food and water Aug. 5. Carden and the rest of the soldiers in the unit arrived here recently to provide interior security for this former Iraqi air base and conduct convoy security missions throughout western Iraq.


Pennsylvania’s Old Gray Mare arrives in Al Asad hot to trot

6 Aug 2005 | Sgt. Juan Vara

The 1st Battalion of the 109th (Mechanized) Infantry, a U.S. Army National Guard unit from Scranton, Pa., arrived here recently to continue the force protection mission Marines from Provisional Security Battalion carried out for the last six months.

“Everybody is motivated and prepared to do their mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class George Long, a rifle platoon sergeant from Harlan, Ky.  “All the training we completed prepared us for this and everyone’s performing exemplary.”

According to Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Urban, battalion sergeant major from Waymart, Pa., the unit comes here after intense combat-focused, theater specific stability and security operations training in Camp Shelby, Miss., and the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif.  Additionally, the unit is reinforced by National Guard soldiers from Kentucky, Tennessee, New Jersey and Maryland.

“The training was a good refresher on some things we’ve seen before and we also learned some new things,” said Army Cpl. Anthony J. Brandi, automation radio repairman and operator from Tobyhanna, Pa.  “Now that we’re here and we’re doing our actual jobs everyone’s glad to be doing what they trained for during the last six months.”

The unit’s last deployment was a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in 2003.  They were reactivated in January for their first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and according to the battalion commander, Army Lt. Col. Michael A. Konzman, this is also their first time reinforcing a Marine unit.

“At first I thought there would be rivalries between the services but I have not encountered that at all and the Marines we work with are all a great bunch of folks,” said Urban.

Konzman, who calls northeastern Pennsylvania home, said the unit has a good working relationship with Marine Wing Support Group 27 and is building a good working relationship with Regimental Combat Team 2.

“We’re being treated better here than we were in Camp Shelby,” said Konzman.  “And they treated us well.”

While the thermometer-topping temperatures of the Al Anbar province may not treat the soldiers in the battalion as well as their Marine counterparts do, their training in the Mojave Desert gave them a chance to adapt to environmental conditions similar to those here.

One of the main things that helped the unit prepare to carry out their current missions was working side-by-side with the Marines of the Provisional Security Battalion, who served a vital role in the security of Al Asad since the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) assumed the air mission here.

“They definitely knew what they were talking about and they’re a real good group of guys,” said Brandi.  “They made sure we were taken care of and were all real helpful.”

Sporting the new Army combat uniforms, the soldiers of the “Gray Old Mare” are the newest members of the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.  Their infantry background makes them a shoo-in when it comes to providing interior security for this former Iraqi air base and conducting convoy security missions throughout western Iraq.

Provisional Security Battalion, a unit comprised of Marines from 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, is scheduled to return to Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C.

- For more information about the soldiers reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at -
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