Still deployed, Crazy Troop looks back on its accomplishments
By: Sgt. 1st Class Troy R. Smith, Pine Journal
While many soldiers serve during a war, few are there when it actually ends. Recalling some of the most vivid images in American history can give us moments that turned the tide of a war or lead to war’s end, but not too many tell the tale of what it is like to be there the moment when the Commanding General said “it’s over,” and the lights are symbolically turned off, transitioning a current war into one for the history books.
The soldiers of Crazy Troop found themselves a part of that “lights out” moment in history, deployed to Kuwait and running missions into Iraq up until the very end of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn. The whirlwind of activity that encompassed America’s last days in Iraq kept the Cloquet-area soldiers so busy, they were unable to really realize their accomplishments. Now, still deployed in the Middle East and training to maintain their combat readiness, they have a chance to sit back and reflect on their unit’s accomplishments.
The drawdown in Iraq is described by military experts as the largest logistical movement of military supplies since the end of World War II. Almost a decade of war equipment was pulled out of the country through nighttime convoys that dotted the Iraqi landscape. At the end, the convoys seemed to be everywhere, as American Commanders pushed to complete their mission far ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline, leaving any last “parting gifts” from enemy insurgents without a target.
The Cloquet-area soldiers knew that the mission would conclude before the deadline, but even their knowledge of the secret plan didn’t prepare them for the abrupt ending of their time at war. For Staff Sgt. Al Huss from Beaver Bay, it was a surreal moment.
“When they said it was over, no one really believed it, it just didn’t sink in at first,” Huss said.
For Staff Sgt. Andrew Boisjoli of Hermantown, the conclusion wasn’t at all what he expected.
“We knew they were keeping the last mission a secret, but it ended up being anti-climactic in a way, unless you were actually on that last mission,” Boisjoli said.
As the political pundits marked the occasion, things were rather low key back in Kuwait. Even though the mission had been declared over, the soldiers didn’t really relax, maintaining their readiness in the event they had to go back into Iraq. As the Dec. 31 deadline passed, the soldiers realized that call would not come. Soon the unit found itself busy training for its current mission, the facts of which cannot be released. Now, as the time in their deployment draws to its final quarter, the soldiers find themselves looking back at their time in Iraq, and the things they accomplished.
The soldiers of Crazy Troop provided armed security for Army and Air Force logistical convoys that moved throughout Iraq removing billions of dollars of American equipment. A common configuration was a four-vehicle armed escort filled with Crazy Troop soldiers, escorting 40 to 44 semi trucks, a mix of both military and civilian. The military acronym for the missions was called CET (pronounced “set”), which stood for “convoy escort team.”
The Cloquet-area soldiers amassed 335,015 miles during 61 convoy missions across the Iraq theatre of operations. Crazy Troop encountered 39 significant actions (called SIGACTS), including being attacked 16 times by either Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or enemy small arms fire, amongst other events. Fifty-eight Crazy Troop soldiers earned their Iraqi Campaign Medals, meaning they surpassed serving 60 days in Iraq. During the last four months of the war, this would equate to roughly 50 percent of their time located inside Iraq, most of it arduous trips late at night, with long distances between the few remaining American combat bases that remained. Crazy Troop escorted over 2,684 semi truckloads of equipment safely back to Kuwait, including missions from all geographic parts of Iraq. Crazy Troop’s 335,015 miles represented 32 percent of the 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry’s 1,047,000 total miles.
Three of the troop’s CETs were individually recognized through the 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry’s “Iron CET of the month” program, taking that honor in two of the three months it was presented. Two were recognized in the month of September for their combined effort in accomplishing the 94th Cavalry’s longest and farthest mission. That mission was so far into Northern Iraq, that it required double the amount of Crazy Troop’s armed escorts. The mission, led by Cloquet natives Staff Sgt. Timothy Schlenvogt and Staff Sgt. Mitch Anderson, presented many challenges for the Crazy Troop soldiers as they escorted a large load of heavy M1A1 tanks north into the Kurdish controlled area of Iraq. Schlenvogt’s element, call-sign Crazy One-Zero, would provide the actual escort of the trucks while Anderson’s element, call-sign Crazy Two-Zero, drove out ahead of the main body and conducted the methodical search for IEDs and enemy attacks. The mission would take 17 days to complete and consisted of several straight days of more than 12 hours on the road.
“You know you’ve had a long day when a night mission turns into a daytime mission because you still haven’t arrived at the next American base yet,” said Sgt. Garrett Geving of Cloquet. “We had some broken down semi trucks in some areas of Baghdad you really didn’t want to be in, especially broken down on the side of the road.”
The mission stood out not only as the longest single CET mission of the 94th Cavalry’s deployment, but also as the longest distance mission as well, encompassing double the miles of the normal CET mission. Despite the many challenges and obstacles, the Crazy Troop soldiers accomplished their mission.
Later, in November, another Crazy Troop CET was recognized as that month’s “Iron CET of the month.” That element, call-sign Crazy Nine-Zero, was led by Staff Sgt. Justin “Ski” Klakoski of Eveleth. This group was highlighted for their display of steadfast readiness and the ability to tackle missions successfully on short notice. This group also was instrumental in implementing additional exterior lighting that allowed all CETs in the 94th Cavalry to better see the roads at night and gain an advantage in the hunt for IEDs.
The future of Iraq is yet to be written. For many soldiers, how that future turns out matters greatly in their own reflection of their time at war.
“We all want Iraq to be successful, having spent so much of our lives deployed here. This is the war I grew up with,” Huss said.
Still others find comfort in the job they did for their fellow soldiers, and leave the pontification of Iraq’s future to those who get paid to do so.
Regardless of how they look at Iraq’s future, the men and women all can look back into the not so distant past and stand proud of the accomplishments of Cloquet-area’s Crazy Troop. As they continue to push on with training still deployed in the Middle East, they do find themselves looking more and more into the another future though, because the best part of the deployment still lies ahead – the homecoming.
Sgt. 1st Class Troy R. Smith is the Readiness NCO and facility manager Crazy Troop, 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry.