Thursday was Veterans Day. In years past, I have written about the service and sacrifices of Idaho veterans who have served in the wars of bygone eras. This year, I would like to talk about Idahoans who are not yet veterans, but hopefully will be soon. They are our brave men and women of the Idaho National Guard's 116th Battalion.
As you probably know by now, 2,200 members of the 116th are preparing for deployment to Iraq, representing the largest mobilization of the Idaho National Guard since World War II. For several months, they have been training at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Polk, La., where they have sharpened their skills and improved their effectiveness and cohesiveness as a fighting unit.
I had the opportunity to visit our Guardsmen and women at Gowen Field in Boise as they departed for training and again just last month at Fort Polk. What I saw both times was inspiring. The troops were upbeat and optimistic, and commanders at Fort Polk were impressed with their ability to adapt, to learn, and to apply that knowledge. This unit will be valuable and incredibly helpful to their commanders when they arrive in Iraq, I'm certain.
While in Louisiana, I was glad to spend all of my time visiting with the men and women of the 116th. We talked about their hopes and expectations, and the loved ones waiting for their return. We talked about everyday concerns, too. A group of Boise State graduates knew I am a University of Idaho alumnus, and couldn't pass up the opportunity to brag about their football team. These conversations demonstrated all the best characteristics of Idahoans: calmness, courage, good humor, realism, enthusiasm and a strong sense of duty and patriotism.
I let them all know that my thoughts and prayers will
be with them, and that my Senate offices are always available to serve
them and their families, if needed. While U.S. armed forces are the
best-trained and best-equipped in the world, providing the necessary
resources to wage a war half a world a way is a complex, difficult and
a massive challenge.
But soldiers also need socks, goggles, body armor, drinking water, canteens, first aid kits, a place to sleep (tents, cots, bedding, footlockers and more), a place to eat (more tents, trays, dishes, eating utensils, cooking utensils, pots, pans, foodstuffs, tables, ovens, stoves, grills, refrigerators for the food), spare parts for their weapons, tanks, Humvees, helicopters and airplanes -- I'm just getting started!
If each soldier needs all this and more, imagine how difficult it is to coordinate the purchase, shipment and delivery of all these goods for more than 130,000 soldiers and marines. As our National Guard troops head to Iraq and serve there, occasional supply problems may arise. The Idaho National Guard welcomes constructive feedback from family members of guardsmen and women on such issues.
I will also be working together with Idaho families and Guard officials to make sure that if any problems do occur, we can provide timely answers and solutions. Family members of full-time servicemembers in other units may also feel free to contact any one of my six regional offices in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Boise, Lewiston and Coeur d'Alene.
I know that each and every member of the Idaho National Guard, from the generals in command down to the buck private, will do their best to accomplish the mission of setting Iraq firmly on the path to stable democracy. Idahoans on the homefront have already made efforts in a number of areas to help the effort, and I will continue to do my part as well.
Please take a moment to consider the great gifts all Americans have received because of the service of our veterans, past and present. Say a quick prayer for all the brave Idahoans heading to Iraq. And if you know a vet, remember to say "Thank you."