Two Iowa National Guard Units Remain in Afghanistan

By Lee Hermiston, Reporter

Members of the 833rd Engineer Company, based in Ottumwa, Iowa, clean their weapons, seated on cots in their "hooch" living quarters in the Forward Operations Base of Fort McCoy, Wis., Thursday. (AP Photo/The Ottumwa Courier, Melissa Carlo)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - All Iowa National Guard soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan should be stateside by late 2013 or early 2014 at the latest.

And, if tensions continue unabated between the United States and Afghanistan government, those could be last troops deployed to the war-torn country.

“We’re at the whim of the Department of Defense and the President,” said Iowa National Guard Master Sgt. Duff McFadden.

McFadden said there are two units currently deployed in Afghanistan - the 1034th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, based out of Johnston; and the 833rd Engineer Company, which is based out of Ottumwa. Collectively, the two units have about 160 soldiers.

The 1034th is tasked with providing, “logistical support,” to U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, including transportation, maintenance, water purification and distribution, fuel distribution and other missions as assigned, McFadden said.

“They should be coming back within a month or so,” McFadden said.

The 833rd deployed in January 2013. That unit, which is charged with removing obstacles, identifying mine fields and explosive devices and other duties, should return to Iowa by December or January.

McFadden said the only other Iowa National Guard unit currently oversees is deployed in Honduras.

There is currently no plan to deploy any more units oversees for the rest of the year, McFadden said.

“I have not seen any,” he said, but he added higher ranking officials could have information about future deployments.

President Barack Obama has said he wants all coalition troops out of Afghanistan in 2014. McFadden – who has deployed to Iraq, but not Afghanistan - said he won’t speculate on whether that’s welcome news for Iowa National Guard soldiers.

“If have orders to deploy, we deploy,” he said. “It’s up to the Department of Defense and the President. If they want us to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, we do it.”

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