With just over three months of full-time training under their belts, members of the 153rd Engineering Battalion of the South Dakota Army National Guard say they are ready for their impending deployment.
Early last week, Lt. Col. Kevin Griese told the 11 South Dakota journalists gathered at the Fort Carson, Colo., training facility that his unit, based out of communities from Madison to Yankton to Platte, was ready for what would be coming overseas.
“We’re training for the worst mission we could find,” Griese said. “We’re a pretty survivable asset. We have a pretty viable force.”
That force includes multiple wheeled and tracked vehicles that have already been shipped to the Middle East.
In the mean time, soldiers have been using Fort Carson’s equipment to simulate their missions, which range from convoy protection to searching for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
While Griese wasn’t able to give specifics on the group’s deployment date, he said the trip to Iraq would be mere weeks away.
Specialist Brent Dietterle of Madison, who completed only two semesters at SDSU before being called to active duty with the 153rd Dec. 11, said he probably won’t grasp the full reality of going to the Middle East until the actual deployment comes.
“It hasn’t really set in yet, ” he said.
“I figure it will once I sit down on the plane heading over there.”
Dietterle said that right now his family members, who were able to visit over the weekend, are probably more worried than he is about the pending deployment.
He says he’s been made more confident by the training he and his fellow soldiers have received.
“We’ve been training pretty hard, preparing for the worst,” he said, “but we’ve learned a lot of new stuff.
“I’d like to think we’re ready for anything.”
Fellow Madison soldier Paul Fischer shares Dietterle’s confidence but admits being away from friends and family will probably be the worst part of deployment.
Like Dietterle, Fischer has put his schooling on hold, along with his involvement in SDSU athletics. The sophomore looks forward to resuming normal life at SDSU when he returns.
Current military policy anticipates around a year of “boots on the ground” overseas.