The Iraqi desert is starting to live up to its name. Soldiers can expect to see 90 degrees this week.
Capt. Mike Pazdernik, Little Falls, company commander of the Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers in Company A, 1st Battalion, 194th Armor, in an e-mail update said the weather is changing quickly. When the 152 soldiers arrived in Iraq in early January, temperatures were often cool. Chocolate was a care package item. Recently the company has dealt with rain and mud.
Those days appear to be gone.
"The high was 65 on Easter Sunday and will be 90 today," Pazdernik said in an e-mail dated Wednesday. "Constant sweating, drinking over a gallon of water each day and always having plenty of sunscreen on will be a regular part of our lives until October comes and it starts cooling down again."
Pazdernik said the insurgent activity has slowed in the company's area during the past few weeks. He credited the change to an increase in Iraqi citizens turning in suspected terrorists.
"This is a great sign," Pazdernik said. "Our mission here is to combat terrorism. The best way to defeat terrorism in Iraq is for the Iraqi people to show they are no longer willing to tolerate it."
Pazdernik said the challenge for soldiers during quiet times is not to let their guard down and think they are in a safe place.
"We discuss the need to remain vigilant every day," Pazdernik said. "I know for the soldiers it often seems as though the leaders are too hard on them, too demanding and too harsh. It is all for good reason. Our No. 1 priority will always be the welfare of the soldiers, and doing everything we possibly can to bring everyone home alive and well. Our strict discipline, adherence to standards and professionalism give us the best chance to do just that."
During the reduced insurgent activity, Pazdernik said energy has been focused on moving the living area. He said all soldiers now are living in the new tent area, which was moved to make way for the trailers expected this spring. The trailers are supposed to create better living conditions during the intense heat of the Iraqi summer.
Much of the work to move into the new tent living area was accomplished by soldiers who worked 12 to 14 hours a day on missions and then worked another six hours moving the unit to the new tent area.
"Our goal is to have the area completed by April 9," Pazdernik said. "We plan to hold a ceremony honoring the 63rd anniversary of the Fall of Bataan. Our intent is to honor the sacrifice of the Minnesota soldiers from A CO, 1-194 AR who fought so bravely in the Philippines during World War II, survived the Bataan Death March and years in Japanese POW camps, and whose legacy we are continuing here in Iraq. We are also using the ceremony as a way to educate our fellow units and leadership here on why our Battalion Motto is, 'Remember Bataan, Never Forget.'"
The company is starting a newsletter written and produced by soldiers that will be published every other week. The newsletter will be e-mailed to family members here at home.
"The Army is discussing a realignment of military police units here in Iraq," Pazdernik said. "The higher leadership is looking for ways to better assist the Iraqi Police Forces and more evenly distribute the military police assets in the country. Since we are assigned to a military police battalion, this realignment could affect us.
"There is a potential that we could get reassigned elsewhere in Iraq. This is possible, but not likely. Our battalion leadership is confident that our mission will remain unchanged. I see our chances of leaving our current camp and mission as very low. We should receive official notification of the realignment plan within the week."
The soldiers are on an 18-month deployment with 12 months of "boots on the ground" duty near Baghdad. RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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