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Alabama National Guard trains for deployment with 1st AD

Sep 29, 2009

By Pfc. Jennifer Kennemer, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany-- Soldiers from the 441st Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), Alabama National Guard, are participating in Operation Unified Endeavor, a pre-deployment mission readiness exercise, scheduled to run through mid-October at the Grafenwoehr Training Area.

Operation Unified Endeavor is the first opportunity for the 441st Ordnance Battalion to build a partnership with the 1st Armored Division Headquarters before a joint deployment to Iraq later this year.

"[Operation Unified Endeavor] allows us to coordinate with EOD support for 1st Armored Division," said Lt. Col. Roger Yearwood, battalion commander, 441st Ordnance Battalion. "The relationship we develop here is going to carry over for the next 15 months."

The MRX is also beneficial to establishing internal unit cohesive.

"Fifty percent of the unit has never been involved in something this size," said Yearwood. "For a lot of the younger Soldiers, this is their first trip OCONUS (outside the continental United States)."

Yearwood has been in the Army for 36 years. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2006. The Alabama native, who now lives on the same 40 acres of land he was born on, was scheduled to retire in June but was asked to extend for the length of the upcoming deployment to Iraq.

It was a decision that he discussed carefully with his wife. Ultimately he felt it was best for the Soldiers of 441st Ordnance Battalion for him to stay with the unit.

"Soldiers need a qualified commander," he said.

Soldiers will look to their commander and senior noncommissioned officers for guidance during the MRX, which is simulates a time frame four months into their deployment to Iraq. It recreates logistical and operational situations that the 441st Ordnance Battalion will likely encounter.

"The exercise tests our ability to make staff decisions while managing multiple companies," said Master Sgt. James Hayes, 441st Ordnance Battalion EOD Soldier that works in the battalion's operations section. "It mirrors our exact mission downrange."

In addition to supporting the 1st AD, 441st Ordnance Battalion will support Task Force Troy, the counter improvised explosive device mission in Iraq. The continued focus of Army EOD is in the education and training of the Iraqi Security Forces. Soldiers under the 441st Ordnance Battalion will help train at the Iraqi Army Bomb Disposal School, established in 2004.

"This is a very demanding mission even with the drawdown," said Hayes.

It is a challenge that Soldiers from the 441st Ordnance Battalion are mentally prepared for.

"I am looking forward to deploying," said Sgt. Alisha Rogers, 441st Ordnance Battalion personnel NCO. "It's why I joined."

Rogers has been in the Guard for four years. "I love what I do. I love the meaning of it. I love wearing the uniform," she said.

There are more than 11,000 National Guard Soldiers in Alabama. The 441st Ordnance Battalion deployed to Afghanistan in 2003.

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