Isle Air Guardsmen heading to Iraq this month


POSTED: Friday, January 09, 2009

Several teams of Hawaii Air National Guard security personnel will be deployed to Iraq this month, joining 1,700 soldiers from the 29th Brigade Combat Team.

Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, who heads both the Hawaii Air and National Guard, told more than 200 attendees at the eighth annual Hawaii-U.S. Military Partnership Conference yesterday that “;several dozen”; Air Guardsmen would be deploying to Iraq, but gave no further details.

At the conference, sponsored by the Chamber Commerce of Hawaii, Lee also said that an additional 100 Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers from the 230th Engineering Company will be sent to Afghanistan in September.

Many of these citizen-soldiers were sent to Afghanistan four years ago. The majority of the soldiers are from Maui.

Lee later told the Star-Bulletin that soldiers in Hawaii's 29th Brigade, which has to escort convoys from Kuwait to Iraq, will be getting mine- resistant ambush protected armored vehicles.

“;They are undergoing training in them even as we speak now,”; he said.

These new heavily armed vehicles have a V-shaped hull that deflects a blast away from crew compartments and usually are used as the lead vehicle in a convoy.

However, Lee said the convoys also will still include smaller M-1151 “;up-armored”; Humvees because some of them could be needed to chase down “;criminals who have tried to hijack the conveys.”;

The Army Reserve's 100th Battalion and the Hawaii Army National Guard's 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry Regiment, are providing armed escorts to convoys traveling north to Iraq.

Allen Hoe, whose son Sgt. Nakoa Hoe is assigned to the 100th Battalion, said the Army Reserve unit has been escorting about two convoys a day.

“;He said the first couple of trips were very eye-opening trips,”; said the elder Hoe, who served in the Vietnam War.

“;After all this training,”; Allen Hoe added, “;the reality of where he was and what he was doing made him he realize that this is for real.”;

The 100th Battalion is protecting convoys transporting commercial cargo such as 18-wheel trailers and containers, said Hoe.

Each round trip takes about two days from Camp Virginia to Camp Cedar in Talil, located 192 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Nakoa Hoe could have skipped this 12-month combat deployment because his elder brother, 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe, was killed by a sniper in Iraq four years ago. At that time, Nakoa Hoe was a member of the 100th Battalion, which had been mobilized as part of the 29th Brigade, but the Army Reserve decided not to deploy him. This time, he volunteered to accompany his Army Reserve unit.

Lee visited 29th Brigade soldiers stationed at Camp Virginia, Camp Buehring, Ali Al Salem, Camp Arifjan and Kuwait Naval Base right after Christmas, bringing them 38 bags of donated snacks, CDs, DVDs and other personnel items shipped to Kuwait by United Airlines.

Lee said the 29th Brigade will be replaced in July by the 115th Brigade Combat Team from the Wyoming National Guard.