CLINTON, N.C. — The North Carolina National Guard's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT) will deploy to Iraq in early 2009.
Among the 4,000 men and women deploying will be Sgt. Robert Dalton, a school resource officer at Clinton High School. To him, serving in the National Guard is not just a job – it is his second passion, along with his school work.
"Interacting with the children is the greatest thing in the world," Dalton said. "I want to be that person the kids can come to, to tell me their problems, and I can help them out."
In the National Guard, Dalton is a gunner on a Bradley fighting vehicle.
The brigade has been to Iraq before, but this deployment will be Dalton's first for the War on Terror.
"We were the first National Guard Brigade Combat Team since the Korean War to deploy to Iraq," Maj. Wes Morrison said.
The 30th returned from a year in Iraq in 2005. Soldiers and their families must now prepare to do it again, but this time they have more warning.
"It's easier with our soldiers because they need to let their employers know with some predictability. Last time, we had 30 days' notice. Now, they can let their employers know about a year out," Morrison said.
Dalton was a Marine for seven years. Leaving civilian life behind is nothing new to him, but it is always hard on his family and students.
"It gives us time to plan and try to get someone else in here. But when you have someone who works so well with the faculty and students, we hate to lose him," principal Jeff Bell said.
"That's kind of tough. It won't be the same when he's not here," a student said.
The brigade patrolled the Iranian border, trained Iraqi troops and built schools primarily in the Diyala Province during their last deployment. Five soldiers were killed and 120 were wounded.
Some soldiers who had finished their commitment re-enlisted when they heard the 30th was going back to Iraq. The unit began as an infantry division during World War I.
The National Guard supplied the following history of Dalton's unit.
Headquartered in Clinton, the 30th Brigade Combat Team dates to the first World War.
Designed primarily to be self-sufficient on the battlefield, the brigade has two combined arms battalions with both tanks and mechanized infantry companies, an armored reconnaissance squadron that is part of the West Virginia Army National Guard, one special troops battalion, one brigade support battalion and a field artillery battalion.
With some 3,800 soldiers headquartered in armories across North Carolina and West Virginia, its equipment includes the M1-A1 Abrams main battle tank, the M2 Bradley fighting vehicle and the 155 mm, self-propelled Paladin howitzer.
The brigade began its service as the 30th Infantry Division on July 18, 1917. Known as the "Old Hickory" Division after President Andrew Jackson, it formed from state militia and Guard units from North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Many of these troops had seen recent action during the campaign against Poncho Villa's bandits who had raided U.S. territory along the Mexican border. Though the Division itself was new, many of the units in it could trace their lineage back to the Civil War and some even to the Revolution.
The unit was called to active federal service in August 1917 for duty in Europe as the U.S. entered the First World War. Division troops arrived in France on May 28, 1918. The division saw action in Belgium around Ypres. Placed under command of the Fourth British Army, the 30th was transferred to the Somme area and spearheaded an assault on the Hindenburg line beginning Sept. 29. Breaking through the Hindenburg defenses, it advanced as far as the La Selle River before being sent to the rear for rest and reorganization. Of the 78 Medals of Honor awarded during World War I, soldiers of the 30th received 12.
The 30th was activated again in September 1940 as part of a general expansion of the U.S. military as World War II approached. For some two years, the division was based at Ft. Jackson, S.C., for training. During the next two years, the 30th saw training in Florida and Tennessee, and finally moved to Indiana, where it prepared to ship out for Europe. On Feb. 12, 1944, the division boarded ships in Boston and headed overseas, disembarking at Clyde, Scotland, and Bristol and Liverpool, England. In March, the division received orders to prepare for the upcoming invasion of France.
The leading elements of the division went ashore in France on June 10, 1944. In late July and early August, the unit helped lead the VII Corps attack called "Operation Cobra" designed to drive the Germans out of Northwest France.
After the success of Cobra, the Germans mounted a massive counterattack designed to split U.S. and British forces and isolate the American Third Army. In their way, in the little town of Mortain, was the 30th Infantry Division. Despite attacks from four German Panzer divisions, the unit held firm when the battle began at midnight on Aug. 6. By Aug. 8, the attack was broken, and a week later the enemy was in full retreat. By Sept. 19, the division had closed up on the Seigfried line, Hitler's fortifications along the western border of Germany. In October, the 30th spearheaded the drive through the line.
By the end of its service in World War II, it had captured more than 65,000 German prisoners and earned praise from the official historian of the European Theater of Operations, S.L.A. Marshall, as the most outstanding infantry division in Europe. The division had received six Medals of Honor, 20,000 Purple Hearts and some 8,000 other awards for heroism. The division was home shortly after the war in Europe ended and was deactivated on Nov. 25, 1945.
Reactivated in 1947, the Division became solely a North Carolina unit in 1954. After several other reorganizations, the 30th retired its colors in a deactivation ceremony held in Raleigh on Jan. 5, 1974. Today, the 30th Division lives on in the form of its descendant, the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT). A modular brigade, it has the latest in high-tech equipment.
Prior to the end of the Cold War, the Brigade was the only U.S. unit assigned to a NATO ally. Assigned to Italy, the 30th regularly trained in Southern Europe, preparing for possible conflicts with the Soviet Union.
On June 5, 1999, the Brigade became part of the 24th Infantry Division, which was headquartered at Fort Riley, Kan. The 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) is composed of three enhanced separate brigades, the 30th, the 218th at Columbia, S.C., and the 48th Separate Infantry Brigade in Macon, Ga. At activation, the 24th was deemed the Integrated Division (IDIV) and was composed of an active division headquarters at Fort Riley, an active forward headquarters at Fort Jackson, S.C., and the three National Guard brigades.
In 2000 to 2001, Company A of the 1st Battalion of the 120th Infantry from Jacksonville and Morehead City and Company B of the 1st Battalion of the 252nd Armor from Sanford, both part of the 30th, took part in a six-month rotation for peacekeeping duty in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It marked the first time National Guard combat units were used for patrol duty. They served under the auspices of the Third Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga., which oversaw the rotation.
In the summer of 2002, the brigade deployed 4,100 soldiers to Fort Riley, where they took part in "Operation Hickory Sting," a large mechanized warfare exercise designed to train soldiers in conditions as close to actual combat as possible. The exercise was designed to prepare the brigade for its training rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., dubbed "Operation Tarheel Thunder." The 30th HBCT successfully completed "Operation Tarheel Thunder" at the Army's premier large-scale combat training center. Soldiers from the 30th came away with many lessons to prepare them for any future operations. On July 27, the 30th was alerted for possible mobilization, then on Oct. 1, 2003, the 30th was again federalized into active duty for deployment in "Operation Iraqi Freedom".
On Oct. 3, the 30th HBCT and its subordinate units began reporting to mobilization stations at Fort Bragg and Fort Stewart, Ga. They continued to train through January 2004, culminating in a Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRE) at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La. In early February, the main body of the 30th flew from Pope Air Force Base to Camp Wolverine, Kuwait.
On March 9, the first combat patrol from Old Hickory crossed the border into Iraq en route to forward operating bases in eastern Diyala Province along the Iranian border. Over the following 12 months, the 30th HBCT teamed up with the 1st Infantry Division, (The Big Red One), for the third time in history. During those 12 months, the 30th soldiers conducted combat, logistical, and reconstruction operations throughout Area of Operations Hickory. The 30th became the first National Guard combat brigade to have its own area of operation in the history of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Upon redeployment in early 2005, the 30th began transformation to a modular configuration preparing it for future full spectrum operations. Since redeployment, the combat veterans of the 30th have continued to support Civil Authorities in response to natural disasters and prepare for future deployments in the global war on terror.