Area soldiers serving in Iraq cited access to wireless Internet as a morale booster, and a soldier's civilian skills are helping make it a reality.
Capt. Mike Pazdernik, company commander of the 152 Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers in Company A, 1st Battalion, 194th Armor, said in a recent e-mail they are close to having wireless Internet in the soldiers' living area.
"We are working with one of the other National Guard units on our camp to make this happen," Pazdernik said. "They have a soldier who works in his civilian career installing Internet service into large hotels. He has purchased the necessary equipment and is working diligently to get the system up and running."
Pazdernik said those civilian skills have come in handy when there were problems with showers, or when additional lights or plug-ins were needed in the tents.
"Now, as we are getting ready to build floors for our temporary tent area, we have carpenters that can get a quality job done quickly," Pazdernik said.
Rain delayed the company's move to the temporary tent area in preparation for the arrival of trailers this spring. They were able to lay rock in the temporary tent area. Work is expected to begin on wooden floors for the tents. The soldiers will use the temporary living area while trailers are moved in and then the tents are expected to serve as transit housing for units visiting the camp. The plan is to have soldiers move from the tents to trailers before the summer heat arrives.
"This week has brought more rain and wind," Pazdernik said. "The miles of sand and barren country around our camp have again turned into a sea of mud. Traveling anywhere in these conditions is challenging. Some days we seem to spend more time getting stuck, and unstuck, than anything else. The best part about it all is that it provides some much needed humor as the soldiers reminisce about their muddy adventures of the day."
Pazdernik reported 16 soldiers re-enlisted since the company was mobilized in October.
The soldiers are on an 18-month deployment with 12 months of "boots on the ground" duty near Baghdad. They were deployed Oct. 16, 2004. After additional training in New Jersey, they arrived in Kuwait on Dec. 22. They moved into Iraq in early January.
"The soldiers continue to astonish and amaze me every day," Pazdernik said. "Their morale and attitude are second to none. They laugh at the rain, they mock the heat, and they seem to have figured out a way to thrive in the never-ending 16-hour days.
"They lift each other up as only soldiers can. Sometimes with good-natured teasing, other times with tough language and counseling, and still other times with a gentle hand on the shoulder and words of encouragement. The soldiers know each other as well as they know their closest family. They sense when one of their brothers needs words of encouragement or maybe just some time alone. In every case, they are there for each other. They are family."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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