Idaho Guardsmen proud of their service in Iraq

BAGHDAD— Members of Alpha Troop, 2nd Squadron, 116th Cavalry Regiment, are reflecting on their tour as they prepare to re-deploy back to their home state of Idaho in the fall. The unit has spent nine months providing security for two camps at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad as one of the force protection units under the 116th Cavalry Brigade, United States Division – Center, in support of Operation New Dawn.
Alpha Troop, stationed out of Emmett and Payette, traditionally has two platoons of reconnaissance scouts with a squad of mortar men in its original organic formation. However, the force protection mission called for a different configuration.
“We didn’t know exactly what the scope of our duties would be upon arrival, but we were prepared to take on this mission and do it to the best of our abilities,” said Capt. Benjamin Cook, of Caldwell, commander of Alpha Troop.
The unit controlled access to portions of VBC by manning Entry Control Points and badging offices. They managed tower security and an Area Defense Operating Center. A portion of the unit provided a Quick Reaction Force to respond to any threats in their camp areas. Alpha Troop, historically an all-male unit, integrated female soldiers into their ranks for this deployment. The unit also worked alongside security guards from other countries.
Cook said he is proud of what his troops have accomplished to ensure the safety of U.S. military and civilian workers at their base camps.
When the mission called, the soldiers always answered, and not without the occasional hardship.
“We work day and night to keep [people] safe from potential threats coming onto the base”, said Spc. Jason Saxton of Blackfoot, a member of the Entry Control Point platoon.
Alpha Troop soldiers say they have pride in their work and have developed close friendships and working relationships throughout the deployment.
“The hours are long, sometimes the work is tedious, but at the end of the day I know that we have made a difference in the lives of individuals, both inside the base and outside,” Spc. Matthew Ward, of Boise, a member of the QRF.
Maj. Robert Holley, of Boise, former Alpha Troop commander and current Contracting Officer Representative for Base Defense Operations, 2nd Squadron, 116th Cavalry Regiment, said he is proud of what the unit is doing and that he was once a part of it.
“Alpha Troop has always been known to get the mission done, take care of each other, and have fun while doing it,” he said.