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Mission accomplished


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POSTED: Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Citizen soldiers of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team completed 10 months in Kuwait and logged nearly 2.2 million miles escorting convoys to bases in Iraq, averaging six to eight missions a day.

The last of the 1,700 soldiers in the brigade will be home Friday, winding up its second deployment. In 2004 the unit was on active duty for the first time since the Vietnam War, spending 12 months in Iraq.

The military jet charter carrying nearly 400 troops assigned to the 29th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery, developed mechanical problems yesterday after leaving Fort Hood, Texas, and was diverted to Los Angeles, where the soldiers were forced to spend the night.

They are expected to arrive today at Hickam Air Force Base along with an additional 300 soldiers belonging to the 100th Battalion who are on a separate military jet charter.

About 700 Army Reserve soldiers from 40 states and territories were added to the brigade to fill needed positions for this deployment.

Two units of the 29th Brigade—the Army Reserve's 100th Battalion and the 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry Regiment—performed the security escort missions.

Col. Bruce Oliveira, brigade commander, said the 100th Battalion soldiers accompanied at least 240 convoys a month involving 14,000 security missions from Kuwait to Iraq, driving 1.2 million miles. These normally were four-hour drives to Camp Cedar in southern Iraq and were generally completed in a day.

The longer convoy missions performed by the 299th Regiment took several days, and the 1st Squadron averaged 45 of these long-haul convoys a month into Iraq, racking up nearly 1 million miles.

He estimated that some of the escorted convoys involved more than 600 trucks a day, which “;hauled enough food to throw a luau for all of Honolulu and enough fuel to fill the tanks of more than 70,000 standard-size cars.”;

Many of these required the services of the brigade's combat medics.

Oliveira will be on the last flight of 200 soldiers, leaving Fort Hood Friday. The soldiers spent five days at the Texas Army post going through demobilization briefings before being released from active duty.

The Hawaii Army National Guard will hold a job fair and reintegration workshop Sept. 20 at the Hawai'i Convention Center for Oahu-based soldiers and their families. Neighbor island sessions will be held on the Big Island Sept. 26, Maui Oct. 3 and Kauai Oct. 4. Specific sites will be announced later.

In a written statement, Oliveira said, “;During this mobilization, the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team soldiers have once again displayed the highest levels of professionalism, selfless service and dedication to duty while honorably representing their families, friends, communities, employers and the state of Hawaii.

“;Deployments are always difficult, and the success of this deployment can be directly attributed to the steadfast work of the soldiers of the brigade, and could not have been possible were it not for the unwavering support provided by our communities, employers and our families.”;

He said 84 percent of his soldiers were combat veterans. He cited other accomplishments:

» Brigade mechanics completed more than 3,700 maintenance requests while maintaining and stocking nearly 48,000 parts, equal to more than 20,000 man-hours of maintenance, working out of Camp Buehring and Camp Virginia.

» Brigade security forces from the 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery, performed more than 220,000 personal and 101,000 vehicle searches at the various entry points on Camp Patriot at the Kuwait Naval Base and the Sea Port of Debarkation.

During the first Iraq deployment, only one soldier from Hawaii—Sgt. Deyson Cariaga—was killed in combat. But 17 other soldiers assigned to the brigade from other states and American Samoa lost their lives.

On the second combat deployment, there were no combat deaths. But three soldiers—Sgt. Julian Manglona, Spc. Cwislyn K. Walter and Spc. Casey L. Hills—died during training or in a vehicle accident.