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Dispatches from Iraq

Mayor John Stromberg has received these e-mail updates about the local Oregon Army National Guard troops from Capt. Karl Haeckler, who is stationed in Ashland, and Capt. Chris Markesino, who is stationed in Iraq.

The local troops are part of the 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry.

The 51 battalion troops from the Ashland Armory are referred to as Headquarters and Headquarters Company. The soldiers are scheduled to remain in Iraq until late spring next year.

June 15

The men of the 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry continue to train at Fort Stewart in Georgia, and their biggest challenge is the heat and humidity. They are training to do collective tasks now, which means that most of their training missions are at the small-unit level (squads and platoons), rather than at the individual level.

I'm happy to report that the infantry had the highest marksmanship scores of any battalion in the whole brigade.

The infantry received a handful of soldiers from the Idaho National Guard who transferred at the last minute to make this deployment.

Very shortly, a small contingent of the infantry will depart Fort Stewart and head into theater (Iraq).

They are what's called the advance party. They'll pave the way for the main elements and help streamline their reception into the country and with the unit we're replacing over there.

— Capt. Karl Haeckler

July 17

The 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry is finally in Kuwait, staging along the southern border of Iraq. They will be moving "across the berm" within the next couple of weeks. They will probably move in smaller, company-sized elements and it could take a couple more weeks beyond that until all units are at their respective Forward Operations Bases.

The training at Fort Stewart went well, and I know that our soldiers are very glad to be done! They are fully validated for combat and are anxious to be in theater doing their job.

Rough numbers for our local soldiers:

Headquarters Company (based in Ashland): 51 personnel

1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry (mostly from Southern Oregon): 561 personnel (including the Headquarters Company)

While they are in Kuwait, they will complete all final checks on equipment and last minute preparations.

— Capt. Karl Haeckler

August 12

Headquarters and Headquarters Company has moved from Fort Stewart in Georgia to Camp Beuhring in Kuwait. There they completed additional training on improvised explosive devices, vehicle roll-overs, cultural awareness and enemy tactics.

While in Kuwait they acclimatized to the drastic change in climates. The average daily temperatures are around 120 degrees, with 1- to 2-percent humidity.

After 11/2; weeks in Kuwait, HHC moved to Camp Adder in Tallil, Iraq.

Now in Iraq, HHC is conducting the Relief in Place/Transfer of Authority from the outgoing unit (3-133rd Field Artillery from the Texas Army National Guard). The official transfer of authority will be on Aug. 12.

From then on HHC 1-186th will take full control of the mission. HHC's mission includes coordinating the convoy's security elements (which are the other companies in the battalion) to and from other bases throughout Iraq.

Currently in Iraq the temp is averaging 120 degrees during the day and nearly 100 degrees at night.

Camp Adder is a large base that houses all branches of military service. We are still exploring our surroundings and have not yet taken full advantage of all the benefits that Camp Adder has to offer.

I want to thank the Mayor of Ashland and the Ashland City Council for their continued support and dedication to HHC and the Oregon Army National Guard.

— Capt. Chris Markesino

August 24

HHC has been busy assuming command of the mission. The ceremony of Transition of Authority took place on Aug. 12. Since then we have been logistically and operationally supporting the other companies as they travel up and down the highways here in Iraq (through communications set-up, electronic warfare countermeasures inspection, medical narcotics inventory and the latest up-to-date intelligence).

We have continued our training with up-to-date improvised explosive devices and counter improvised explosive devices training. We have also begun prepping for the turn in of unused and unneeded supplies and equipment. Iraq has over six years of supplies and equipment that has been flowing in. It is time to stop that flood and start sending stuff that is not needed here home or to the other war zones.

In the last couple of days it has been unbearably hot. It was 130 degrees at the Tactical Operations Center yesterday.

— Capt. Chris Markesino