Isle troops heading home soon


POSTED: Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hawaii's 2,200 soldiers with the 29th Brigade Combat Team officially transferred operations to the Wyoming National Guard in Kuwait yesterday but will not start returning home until early next week.

That is because the 29th Brigade, with several hundred mainland National Guard and Army reservists, has to report first to Fort Hood in Texas, where it will undergo several days of demobilization briefings before being released from active duty.

Of the 2,200 citizen-soldiers in the brigade, 1,700 are from the islands. The remaining 500 soldiers are members of the 45th Fires Brigade, an artillery unit from the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

Yesterday the headquarters element of the 29th Brigade turned over its operations to Col. Richard Knowlton, who heads the 2,500 citizen soldiers assigned to the 115th Fires Brigade from Alabama, Colorado, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wyoming.

Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, state adjutant general, said two of the brigade units—the 100th Battalion and the 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry Regiment, which were responsible for guarding convoys from Kuwait to Baghdad—transferred operations on Saturday.

“;We hope to have everyone home before Admission Day celebration,”; Lee added. Aug. 21 marks Hawaii's admission as a state.

“;They did a super job,”; Lee said. “;They have been in combat before. They used their smarts to make sure the enemy did not have an advantage, which resulted in a lot fewer engagements with the enemy.”;

Lt. Col. Mike Peeters, commander of the 100th Battalion, said in an e-mail that his unit completed more than 1 million miles of convoy security mission miles and redeployment operations.

“;The battalion employed M1114 up-armored Humvees, ASVs (armored security vehicles) and MRAPs (mine resistant ambushed protected vehicles) and fielded the latest and most up-to-date equipment available.”;

He likened the Kuwait-Iraq convoy security missions to those the 100th Battalion conducted in North Africa in World War II.

“;The battalion operated as the point of the spear for the brigade's sustainment operation, which supplied the majority of the supplies to sustain troops in Iraq,”; Peeters said.

In 2004 more than 2,100 soldiers from the 29th Brigade spent 18 months on active duty, with the most of it in Iraq. During the Iraq deployment, only one soldier from Hawaii—Sgt. Deyson Cariaga—was killed in combat. However, 17 other soldiers assigned to the brigade from other states and American Samoa lost their lives.

During the last 10 months in Kuwait, there were no combat deaths.

However, three 29th Brigade soldiers died from vehicle and training accidents:

» Sgt. Julian Manglona, from Saipan, who died Oct. 6 when he collapsed after a 6-mile run in the North Fort Hood training area.

» Spc. Cwislyn K. Walter, 19, assigned to the 29th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, died Feb. 19 as a result of injuries sustained in a single-vehicle accident on Seventh Ring Road outside Kuwait City in Kuwait.

» Spc. Casey L. Hills, 23, assigned to C Company, 100th Battalion 442nd Infantry Regiment, died June 24 as a result of injuries when his vehicle rolled over. Hills, from Salem, Ill., was a former Illinois National Guard soldier, and a gunner on the Humvee.