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1AD HQ ready to 'get out door' on Iraq mission

By DAVID BURGE | El Paso Times, Texas (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 15, 2017

After months of training, soldiers from the 1st Armored Division’s headquarters are ready to deploy and get on with their new mission.

About 400 soldiers from the division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, with a small contingent from Division Artillery, will deploy to Iraq in June.

The team will include Fort Bliss and 1st Armored Division commanding general Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White and division Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day.

“Soldiers have been training really hard for the past year,” said 1st Lt. Carlos Valenica, the executive officer for Headquarters Support Company with HHBN, as the headquarters battalion is more often called.

“So finally being able to enact that training in a real-world scenario, I think a lot of soldiers are very excited to get out the door,” said Valencia, from Austin, Texas.

White will lead what is called the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq. In that role, the 1st Armored Division will be responsible for mission command over coalition forces who are training, advising and assisting Iraqi security forces in their fight against the Islamic State and other threats.

The deployment is expected to last nine months.

Division headquarters around the Army regularly deploy, but this is the first time that the 1st Armored Division headquarters has deployed since it moved to Fort Bliss from Germany in 2011, said Lt. Col. Mike Bandy, the commander of HHBN.

These Fort Bliss soldiers will take over the mission command role from the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Riley, Kan., and will officially start the mission in July.

The Gladiators, as the headquarters battalion is nicknamed, contain a diverse array of soldiers who specialize in military intelligence, supply, maintenance, human resources and signal support, among other functions.

The battalion will bring representatives from all those different specialty areas and will provide a wide range logistical support so White and his staff can conduct mission command while in Iraq, Bandy said.

Since Bandy took command of HHBN on Jan. 19, the battalion has been working “nonstop” to prepare for this deployment, he said.

The battalion took part in the large-scale Warfighter exercise in February and recently completed a mission readiness exercise called Iron Gauntlet that mimicked what it will experience in Iraq, Bandy said.

Before coming to Fort Bliss, Bandy, a Green Beret, served as the operations officer for Special Operations Joint Task Force-Iraq, when he was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Bandy served a six-month deployment in Iraq lasting until July 2016. So, he is quite familiar with the mission set and conditions on the ground there.

One of the challenges the battalion will face is it will operate with smaller teams in several locations while deployed, said Maj. Tam Dam, the battalion operations officer from San Jose, Calif.

“The challenge is maintaining communication when we are down range,” Dam said. “We already have a plan in place. Thinking through those kinds of things will probably reduce a lot of the friction when you go down range.”

Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Marcus Alford, of Dillon, S.C., said HHBN is “absolutely ready” for its Iraq mission.

“I think the soldiers want the opportunity to get out and show that they are trained and prepared for this,” Alford said.

“Any mission America calls us to do is important,” Alford added. “We will get out there and continue moving forward with the Iraqis in their development.”

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©2017 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

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