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Paynesville Press - January 27, 2010

Ingalsbe serves in Iraq with National Guard

By Michael Jacobson

It's fitting that Paynesville native Adam Ingalsbe was serving in Iraq over Thanksgiving this year. For the 2004 PAHS grad, joining the Minnesota National Guard was an expression of his gratitude to the United States.

"There were a few reasons that I considered joining the military, but the one that made me decide to do it is this: I feel incredibly blessed to live in the USA and to be given all the opportunities that I have," he said via e-mail from Basra, where he served with the 34th Infantry Division Headquarters, returning in January 2010. "I think the best way to say 'Thank you' is to say, 'Thanks, we'll take it from here' and make sure that that gift is preserved for future generations."

Ingalsbe received a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship while at Gustavus Adolphus College, participating through the program at MSU-Mankato. Upon graduating in 2008, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Minnesota Army National Guard.

He did his Basic Officer Leader Course from August 2008 to January 2009 at Fort Sill, Okla., and at Fort Gordon, Ga. His National Guard unit, known as the Red Bulls, was mobilized in February 2009 and sent to Fort Lewis, Wash., for training.

"We were there for about two months, conducting both individual soldier training and unit readiness training," he explained. "Each soldier needs to complete a list of basic soldier tasks before being certified as deployable, and the unit needed to conduct several exercises to prepare for the mission in Iraq."

The Red Bulls deployed to Basra in April 2009, at a time when the U.S. was assuming positions previously held by the British in southern Iraq.

"(Basra) is actually the second largest city in Iraq, situated very close to Kuwait and the Persian Gulf," Ingalsbe said. "It is less violent and unstable than many other areas of the country, partly because of the relative absence of intersectarian violence. It is a primarily Shia area and there are no significant minority populations."

"The Mahdi Army and other militias did carry out attacks on the British, but it is relatively quiet at this point in time. This area was under the jurisdiction of British forces until shortly before we arrived, when it was turned over to U.S. forces."

Ingalsbe, who has been promoted from second lieutenant to first lieutenant, is an executive officer for the headquarters company.

"Most of what I do deals with unit readiness, training, and personnel requirements. While we were at Fort Lewis, we were very busy ensuring that everyone got the training they needed and keeping records to be able to prove that all soldiers were good to go," he said. "Here in Basra, I deal with all sorts of issues, from the company's R&R program, to health and welfare of the troops, to ongoing training requirements. Basically, anything that the commander is responsible for."

As a division headquarters, his unit is responsible for the southern third of the land area of Iraq. Referred to as Multi-National Division - South (MND-S), they provide command and control to the handful of combat brigades that are a part of MND-S. "Our big-picture goals are to support the Iraqi Security Forces and enable them to be fully functional and independent, so that when U.S. forces leave, they can maintain the relative peace and security that has been achieved since the troop surge in 2007," wrote Ingalsbe.

Adam is the second member of his family to serve in Iraq, as his older brother Scott was deployed there from February 2007 to April 2008.

"My tour is very different from my brother Scott's a couple of years ago," said Adam. "The dynamics of the country are vastly different now, since the concurrent force of the troop surge and other trends like the "awakening" movement really put the country on a positive course. He was a platoon leader, leading patrols in a Baghdad neighborhood, and I rarely ever leave the base that I am currently on."

"Since the security agreement that went into effect this summer, U.S. forces have been taking a less active role in the security of the country and encouraging the Iraqi Security Forces to operate more independently and really take ownership of the future of their country," he added. "The only danger that most of our soldiers face is the occasional rocket that is shot at our base. These are usually ineffective, but in July we had three soldiers killed in a rocket attack."

COB Basra, where Adam is stationed, is located right next to the Basra International Airport. Most of the troops reside in tents, but his unit lives in CHUs (Containerized Housing Units). The two-mile long by half-mile wide base, not counting the airfield, has a USO, movie theater, gym, and PX (store), as well as phones and the Internet for soldiers to use. "For the most part, soldiers relax by working out and watching movies or AFN (Armed Forces Network). I have been able to do a lot of reading while I have been here, which has been great," said Ingalsbe.

A weekly tradition for the Red Bulls, who are based in Rosemount, Minn., is to watch the Vikings (provided their game is carried by AFN). According to Ingalsbe, since there is a nine-hour time difference between Minnesota and Iraq, noon football games start at 9 p.m., while primetime games start at 4 a.m.

"Being away from home on Thanksgiving was a little odd. Mostly, it was strange because it was just another day," he said. "We had a big meal and some very good food, so that was nice. Every day is more or less the same, so on a daily basis it doesn't really feel like the holiday season right now."

The Red Bulls have started to return stateside, and Ingalsbe, whose commitment to the National Guard runs through 2014, got to come back early in order to see his brother Scott, who is preparing to leave for another tour of duty in Iraq.

While stateside, Adam will do normal National Guard training one weekend a month and two weeks every summer. Having majored in financial economics at Gustavus, Ingalsbe was hired to work at General Mills headquarters in Golden Valley, Minn., but has been on a leave of absense since being hired.

Now Adam will start his job as well. He and his wife, Laura, live in Burnsville.

Contact the author at editor@paynesvillepress.comm

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