U.S. DIVISION-NORTH, IRAQ — Despite the drawdown of troops in Iraq, about 60 North Dakota National Guardsmen
remain. Eight of those serve with the 1st
Air Defense Artillery Regiment and are led by Sgt. 1st
Class Michael Kraft, of Devils Lake, N.D. The Soldiers support a wide range of daily operations in U.S. Division-North, Iraq
, utilizing the Sentinel Radar on two separate bases in the 3rd
Infantry Division-led USD-North.
This is the first time North Dakota Soldiers have used the AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel Radar in a combat zone. The Sentinel can alert short-range air-defense weapons to sites of hostile targets.
When they first arrived to Iraq, the Soldiers were separated among four locations. The North Dakota Guardsmen all worked in multiple Brigade Air Defense and Air Management, or ADAM, cells spread throughout northern Iraq. Sgt. Matthew Shere, of Duluth, Minn., is the Sentinel Radar noncommissioned officer-in-charge at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warrior, near Kirkuk, where he reflected on his mission: “The mission has been a great success thus far, and it’s nice to know that we are an integral part of daily operations.”
Throughout their time in Iraq, the Soldiers of the 1-188th ADA’s mission is to utilize the Sentinel Radar to coordinate and deconflict airspace throughout Iraq. This includes deconflicting aircraft, mortar fire missions, unmanned aerial systems, controlled detonations, close air support, attack weapon teams, show of force missions, troops in contact, countering indirect fire, and conducting air assault missions. This long list of demands has kept these Soldiers extremely busy and impressed a countless number of people along the way.
“These Soldiers have done a tremendous job and have represented the state of North Dakota extremely well throughout this entire deployment,” Kraft said. “It’s what is expected of Soldiers from our state.”
The job doesn’t stop there. The maintenance of the Sentinel Radar is a large task all in itself. To allow the radar to be capable of running 24/7, the Soldiers spent a countless number of hours learning more about its advanced internal systems.
While Shere and his team remained at FOB Warrior the entire year, the others have returned to Contingency Operating Base (COB) Speicher to work in the 3rd Infantry Division Air & Missile Defense section. It’s an around-the-clock job in which the Soldiers monitor airspace for outside missile and aircraft threats to U.S. Division-North. It’s an important task that keeps these Soldiers monitoring the skies of northern Iraq 24/7.
The ADA Soldiers in Iraq mobilized Nov. 30, 2009, along with a sister Sentinel Radar group of about 25 that are serving in Afghanistan. Additionally, the ADA has a group of about 40 Soldiers serving in Afghanistan with the Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment, or RAID, system. They are all expected to return home this fall from the yearlong mission. When in North Dakota, the ADA is headquartered in Grand Forks, with units also in Bismarck and Fargo.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 150 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 52 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that’s more than four times the national average.
The high-resolution photo to accompany this release is available for download on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/ndguard/4973998048