Rhinelander soldier to report from Afghanistan
Editor’s note: The Star Journal will be publishing periodic articles from Sergeant Rick Peterson of Rhinelander during his deployment to Afghanistan.
By way of introduction, and throughout the duration of my submissions, I am Sergeant Peterson, a Combat Engineer and Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) Sergeant in the Wisconsin National Guard. I am more commonly known as Rick Peterson, of Rhinelander, a husband, father and Corrections Unit Supervisor at Copper Lake/Lincoln Hills School in Irma. I am originally from Woodruff and have spent the majority of my life in Oneida and Lincoln Counties.
I am currently at the initial stages of a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, with the 829th Engineer Company of Chippewa Falls. This is my second deployment, and a return to Afghanistan. I previously deployed with the 951st Engineer Company of Rhinelander and am still a member of that Company.
I have been given the unique opportunity of sharing with you my experiences and those of the soldiers I am deploying with. I believe that the civilian world does not often get the chance to learn about the effort, planning and preparation that goes into a National Guard deployment and I am happy to be a window for you into that world.
To begin with, when a National Guard Unit is deployed, the Unit is commonly notified well in advance. This advance notice is known to us as a WARNO, or Warning Order. A WARNO is usually received 8 to 12 months in advance of a deployment of National Guard troops. I was made aware of this deployment in the Spring of 2013. Mobilizations for Guard Units are usually one year long and include a pre-mobilization period of a few weeks to a few months. During the pre-mobilization period, all soldiers are trained for mission-specific duties, and the entire unit spends time training on general tasks. In a sense, almost everything we learned in Basic Combat Training is reviewed and our skills are honed in preparation for our time “in country.”
Currently, the 829th is conducting pre-mobilization training at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. Our Federal Orders (known to us as Title 10 orders) were effective April 1. We expect to arrive in Afghanistan to begin our mission sometime in June. Our general mission is deconstruction. As our commander, Captain Gruber has described it, we are helping to turn out the lights on our time in Afghanistan. We will be reclaiming or demolishing many of the structures that have been built on our Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) during the previous 12 plus years, and helping to pack and ship United States property back home. The deployment, including pre-mobilization training, is predicted to last approximately one year.
Just prior to this deployment, the 829th Engineer Company conducted three weeks of Annual Training (AT). This is not unusual in that it is an opportunity for the Unit Commander and First Sergeant to prepare a training regimen that allows for additional preparation of the unit in advance of the mission. This AT was conducted at Fort McCoy. Training included weapons qualifications on individual weapons and larger weapons such as the 249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) and the .50 caliber machine gun, as well as squad level training, movement training and combat lifesaver skills training.
Much of the training took place in below-freezing conditions that included plenty of wind and snow. (I am a Wisconsin boy through and through, but “God Bless Texas” is ringing true for me this year.) Sixteen to 18 hour days were the norm during this AT. It was a rigorous schedule, but a great deal was accomplished. We were all blessed to have a four day pass after AT to spend time with our families and loved ones prior to our journey to Texas and the beginning of our deployment.
Mine is not an unusual story. I am leaving behind a wife and children, a job, friends and many other things that I have occasionally taken for granted in my life. All of us, as soldiers, have experienced this to one degree or another. Whether it was for Basic Training, weekend drills, two week Annual Trainings each year or for deployments overseas, leaving home is not an easy thing to do. Thankfully, we can count on the support of our families and communities to get us through the difficult times and welcome us home upon our return.
A final thought: Our presence as members of coalition forces has proven beneficial for the Afghan people, but many believe that we have done all we can, and it is time for us to go. Whether you hold that opinion or not, it is my hope that you offer your support to the United States Armed Forces. Each soldier has many individual underlying reasons for their commitment to serve, but all have one in common, a love of their country and a desire to serve. I share that love and desire and appreciate it when anyone goes out of their way to say “thank you.” On occasions when I have been in uniform in the community, I have encountered many people that have offered a simple “Thank you for your service.” I feel a sense of duty to America and that is why I serve. That is also why I will often reply, “Thank you. It is my honor and pleasure to do so.”
I look forward to sharing with you as often as I am able. It is my hope that my submissions will give everyone a basic understanding of what a deployment is like for the citizen soldiers that are a part of your communities.
Thank you for your support of the United States Armed Forces. hank you for your support of the United States Armed Forces.