Task Force 49 Commander Col. Chandler C. Sherrell and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard A. Mitchell unfurl the Task Force 49 colors during a Dec. 3 transfer of authority ceremony at LSA Anaconda, Iraq. After a two-week relief in place with the Task Force XII headquarters staff, the Task Force 49 staff took charge of full-spectrum aviation operations throughout the Multi-National Corps – Iraq area of operations.
June 24 , 2009
An Army NCO at Google: Episode 3
Check out our third post from Army NCO and Training with Industry Soldier Dale Sweetnam, [who was mobilized in Alaska, spent 13 months in Iraq, and now works for Google]. Last week we brought you a blast from the past (because we can’t resist a post about lava lamps), so we’re bringing you his post from June 17. His June 24 post is worth a read as well, so visit his site at http://thearmyjournalist.blogspot.com.
A few days ago I found out that the unit I deployed with last year, Task Force 49, received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its work in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 07-09. Task Force 49 actually received the award two months ago, but I just recently found out about it. You kind of fall out of the loop once you depart an active unit. So I’d like take a break from my typical Google updates and spend some time talking about those Soldiers I stood beside in Balad and Baghdad from November 2007 to December 2008.
It’s too easy to rely on the basic adjectives when describing the men and women of Task Force 49. I could spend time talking about their heroism, their dedication to duty and their selfless service. I could talk about how they worked 12 hour days seven days a week for 13 months. I could discuss all they sacrificed for their country. But instead of using all those played out and oft-repeated descriptions, I’d rather discuss how these Soldiers simply went out there and did their job. One of my favorite traits of a true hardened Soldier is that they seldom talk about where they’ve been. They don’t fish for compliments and they sometimes get embarrassed when civilians thank them for their service. Task Force 49 was full of these Soldiers. The Soldiers of Task Force 49 didn’t always like where they were, they didn’t always like their job and they sometimes didn’t even like each other, but they always showed up. They showed up and they worked.
There were about 130 of us, but 90 days before the deployment, the unit had only 30 Soldiers. Task Force 49 HHC had only 60 or so days to mobilize and deploy. So we came from all over the state of Alaska, from different units and even different installations. We were all thrown together last minute, so naturally there wasn’t much time to bond before we found ourselves in the desert.
Soldiers criticize each other and argue all the time. Task Force 49 was no different. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t like everyone in my unit, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a unit of Soldiers in the Army where everyone gets along. But that’s never the point. It’s about how you function as a unit, how you forget your differences and move past the conflicts of personality. I know when we stepped on that plane to come home, we were proud of each other and of the mission we accomplished. Every last one of us came home safe and when we shook hands and went our separate ways after the deployment, we truly respected each other.
I will always be proud of the work we did in Iraq. Sure, it wasn’t the most dangerous work, but we were still there for 13 months. We still slept in dusty tents and trailers, sat in bunkers during mortar attacks, flew countless hours over Baghdad and spent more than a year away from our families. It was a deployment, and it was tough.
My time with Task Force 49 was an important period in my life. It means a lot to me that the unit was recognized as a whole. I love these Soldiers and they should be proud of this commendation. They truly earned it.
Take care and thank you for reading-
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