|913th commander says unit witnessing history in making |
|Posted: Monday, January 23, 2012 10:00 pm |
By CHRIS MENEES
Spc. Billy McBride of Union City, a member 913th Engineer Co., based in Union City, shows the Christmas stockings full of supplies he received from the community back home at Christmas.
Soldiers from Union City’s 913th Engineer Co. are seeing history in the making.
The 160-plus members of the local Tennessee Army National Guard unit been serving overseas in Kuwait since Oct. 9 after being deployed in August 2011.
“Things are going well,” 913th company commander Capt. Jacob Partridge said by telephone Friday afternoon. “It’s actually … a historical time to be here with the drawdown in Iraq.”
Partridge spoke with The Messenger from Kuwait through Google Mail. Kuwait time is nine hours ahead of West Tennessee and it was nearly 10 p.m. in Kuwait when the company commander made the connection.
“We’ve gotten to witness all the troops coming out of Iraq and the big drawdown,” he said.
He said things seem to be somewhat “in limbo” right now with trying to determine between the Kuwaitis and the Americans what kind of military presence will remain there. He explained the focus has moved from Iraq to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and said there is still a lot of logistical support from Kuwait that goes toward Afghanistan.
The 913th, part of the 194th Engineer Brigade, left Union City Aug. 18, 2011, for a 12-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The soldiers spent over a month training at Fort Bliss, Texas, and in the New Mexico desert before flying to the Middle East.
Partridge said the 913th is helping out as horizontal engineers, building and maintaining roads. He said the local soldiers have built a lot of gravel pads for vertical construction, with temporary buildings and tents erected, and most of what they do is considered expeditionary and as support for the logistical effort. It is not intended to be permanent, but will serve the American troops well while they are there.
He explained the soldiers from the 913th are somewhat spread out, with a platoon of 30 to 40 soldiers stationed in a camp up north and the rest in southern Kuwait.
He said he has personally not had much contact with the Kuwait people, with most encounters being on the highways as the troops travel. The farthest camp from where the 913th is located is about a two-hour drive and he said the troops spend a lot of time out on the highways.
The soldiers have also been able to do some recreational trips such as touring some historical sites.
When asked about the living conditions, Partridge said most of the soldiers are living in barracks of about 60 soldiers in one building. He said there are restaurants there, including Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks.
He said a lot of USO tours came through during the Christmas holiday and there have been several concerts. The Tennessee Titans cheerleaders were there Friday to visit the troops.
Every soldier also has the opportunity to return home to the United States for two weeks at some point during their year-long deployment. Only a certain number can be gone at any one time, with the leaves spread out, and Partridge said about 30 soldiers were able to be home at Christmas.
“A lot came back home during Christmas,” he said.
Partridge said there was an overwhelming response with care packages sent to the troops from loved ones and the community back home at Christmas. He said the effort was truly appreciated by all of the soldiers.
As of right now, Partridge said the 913th will be back home by Aug. 14.
“That’s the last day they can legally have us on orders,” he said. “Right now, from everything I’ve seen or heard, it looks like it’s going to be between Aug. 1 and Aug. 14.”
Overall, Partridge said the soldiers’ work in Kuwait is “going well” and continuing to progress.
“There’s not anything that’s gone wrong really,” he added.
Published in The Messenger 1.23.12