Citizen Soldiers Bring Unique Skills
By Charlie Coon
Stars and Stripes
April 19, 2005
BAQOUBA, Iraq — Most do not wear camouflage for a living. But they're not
"That's what makes the Guard unique," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Hawkins.
"You've got a pool to draw from. We've got mechanics, engineers, plumbers, cops,
Most of the 42nd Infantry Division's Task Force Liberty are not full-time
soldiers, but rather members of the Army National Guard or Army Reserve. In
February, the 42nd ID took responsibility for control of north-central Iraq from
the the 1st Infantry Division, which had served there for a year. Its commander,
Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, has overall command of activities and of active-duty
units deployed to the area.
The guardsmen and reservists say they've got what it takes to make progress
in a country where 8 million people voted on Jan. 30 but attacks by insurgents
continue to test the resolve of the new Iraq.
"There is irreversible momentum; this isn't going backward," Taluto said in a
February interview with Stars and Stripes.
"There is a small percentage of people who make life miserable for a lot of
people. The only way to stop them is to kill them. There's no other way about
it. They are hard-line extremists and are not going to give up their cause."
The citizen soldiers might be the perfect fit for the current stage of the
U.S. occupation. Two years after toppling Saddam Hussein's regime, the goals for
Task Force Liberty are decidedly grass-roots: tamping down a stubborn insurgency
while training Iraqi soldiers and police to do the job themselves; molding
dysfunctional local governments into responsive and productive entities; and
enabling elections scheduled for October (to ratify the new Iraqi constitution)
and December (to choose a national congress).
The guardsmen and reservists, who make up 13,000 of the 23,000 soldiers in
Task Force Liberty, bring diplomatic and other real-life skills to the game.
"Back in the '90s, it would have been an issue," said Maj. Teresa Wolfgang, a
reservist and company commander with the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion, assigned
to 3rd Brigade Combat Team. "The first Gulf war changed that. A lot of the
reservists and guards here have prior active duty. We now have a smaller
active-duty force, especially in my field — civil affairs. We have people who
have been deployed two or three times.
"If you lined them up, could you really tell?" she asked, referring to active
and Reserve soldiers. "We all have our combat patches. We all have to go to the
"We might be better at solving problems at the civilian level," added Capt.
Andy McConnell of the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion, a police officer and
reservist from Orange County, Calif.
Some, such as Taluto, the division commander, are full-time employees of the
"I didn't have to come here; I volunteered," said Sgt. 1st Class Scott
Wombacher, a 28-year employee of the New Jersey Guard. "All my unit is
activated. I didn't want my guys to go without me."
Wombacher, who is assigned to the 50th Main Support Battalion at Forward
Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit, said his guardsmen spent long hours at the
tank range back in the States.
In Iraq, they fix weapons, tanks, laser range-finders and howitzers.
"Most of the guys in my section have trained with me for 10 years at a
minimum," Wombacher said. "We've got a lot of technicians activated for this
"As far as the knowledge, you don't have to look for it. It's there."
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in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen
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