AL ASAD, Iraq -- Soldiers from the Nebraska National Guard recently arrived at Al Asad to relieve their comrades and continue support for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
The 67th Area Support Group, a Lincoln, Neb., Army National Guard unit recently relieved the 326th ASG and held a transfer of authority ceremony at the unit’s headquarters, Oct. 4. Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, the commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead, the commanding general of 2nd MAW (Fwd.), attended the ceremony, along with Soldiers from both groups.
“I know we are leaving this base a whole lot better than we found it,” said Col. George R. Harris, 326th’s garrison commander. “We arrived with the mission of improving our environment and supporting the personnel here, and I believe we have been successful. I know the improvements will continue after this turnover.”
An area support group provides a wide range of support, from supply and maintenance to administration and training. The two primary missions are command and control of subordinate units and to plan and direct logistical support.
“The challenge for our Soldiers was to build up the administrative and logistical infrastructure,” said Army Capt. Rich Coutre, personnel administration director for the 326th and a Ponca City, Okla., native. “They performed very well. They really learned to work together and with the other services. I think they came through with flying colors.”
The working and personal relationships formed with Marines from 2nd MAW helped during the deployment and in the long run, Harris said.
“We were fortunate to be openly welcomed into this Marine Corps family, and we were proud to be a part of it,” Harris said. “I have no doubt these Soldiers will be better off after working alongside Marines.”
Soldiers from the 326th enjoyed their work and experiences, despite the tough conditions of a deployment, said Coutre.
“This is my second time out here and I volunteered to come back,” Coutre said. “This is a real positive experience because you know you’re making a difference by supporting the people on the ground.”
The 67th joined 2nd MAW after being mobilized in July. The group conducted theater-specific training at Ft. Riley, Kan., before deploying. The Soldiers are looking forward to challenges they will encounter, but also appreciate the hard work that was done before them, said Col. Kenneth E. Hassler, commanding officer of the 67th.
“We appreciate everything 326 did to pave the way for us,” Hassler said. “They made a lot of good progress during their time here and we’re looking forward to building on it.”
Hassler, a former Navy CH-46 mechanic, said he was looking forward to working with Marines.
“I have seen the professionalism of these Marines before,” Hassler said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to work with them and I’m glad my Soldiers will be able to work alongside them. We are going to provide the best support possible and we’re glad to be a part of the family.”
As Hassler and the group’s command sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Leon Haith, replaced 326’s garrison sign with their own, 2nd MAW said farewell to one friend and welcome aboard to another.
“We’re thankful for the support we’ve received, and we’re looking forward to working with the newest member of our family,” Milstead said.