CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind. – More than 600 Soldiers of the Massachusetts National Guard are training at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in central Indiana for deployment to Afghanistan, the state’s largest single deployment of troops since World War II.
The 181st Infantry Battalion Soldiers are providing a key security element to more than 10 different Provincial Reconstruction Teams spread out across Afghanistan. Their mission is to provide security and continue with the rebuilding and stabilization of Afghanistan infrastructure.
This next generation of security forces and rebuilding-effort units are deploying while violence there is at an all time high, last month being the worst for U.S. Forces since the war began in 2001, mostly from roadside bombs. This does not deter the unit’s commander, Lt. Col. Anthony Couture, who said he feels prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.
“The Counter Improvised Explosives Device training heightens everyone’s awareness to the threat,” said Couture. “Our training here at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center is critical to honing our skills and adjusting to the counter-insurgency operations in the Afghanistan environment.”
Couture’s Infantry Soldiers make up roughly 50 percent of the PRTs. The PRTs are filled with subject matter experts from several military branches in various fields from engineering to agriculture, set into place to train Afghan villages to become self-sustaining. The combat Soldiers pass their tactical knowledge on to the support servicemembers of other branches.
“Everyone comes together with a variety of capabilities, knowledge and skills,” said Couture. “The Infantry warriors assist the Air Force and Navy personnel in some basic combat skills and assist in weapons familiarization, facilitating the effort to break down barriers between joint services.”
As the Soldiers of the 181st move forward, preparing themselves to deploy and make history, Couture reflects back on the heritage of his unit, which is older than the U.S. herself.
“The 181st has battle streamers from Lexington and Concord, engagements in the Civil War, World War I, World War II and many other conflicts the U.S. has engaged in throughout our 370 plus years of service,” said Couture.
Elements of the 181st have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, but this will be the battalion’s first deployment together post 9/11.
Massachusetts citizen-Soldiers trace their history back to the Minutemen who fired the “shot heard ‘round the world”, the colonial militiamen who fired the first shot of the Revolutionary War. In fact, their brotherhood leads back to the very first colonial militiamen formations, the 181st Infantry being one of the first four U.S. military units to form.
“We are very proud of our history,” said Public Affairs Officer Capt. John Quinn. “We have one of the oldest lineages in the country dating back to the Massachusetts Bay Militia in 1636. We don’t have any Soldiers left in our unit from that time though, they’ve all since retired,” said Quinn with a smile.