Over 400 Arizona Army National Guard Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment received an emotional farewell ceremony July 7 before deploying in support of Operation Spartan Shield.
Governor Doug Ducey addressed the more than 2000 family and loved ones who filled the stands to show their support at the Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Tempe, Ariz.
Lt. Col. Pete Garver, battalion commander of the 1-158th Infantry Regiment said the unit’s main mission is to provide force protection to a number of military resources in the region.
“The 158th is going to be doing a security forces mission within task force Spartan Shield,” Garver, said. “Primarily, we’ll be doing base security for a number of naval bases along the coast, along with some airfields, and convoy escorts as well for materials going to and from the ports into the various staging locations.”
Since 1865, the 1-158th, also known as the Bushmasters, have been drafted, ordered, deployed, deactivated and re-activated so despite the obstacles the unit has faced getting ready for this deployment, they continue to overcome every one of them.
“One of the challenges was originally when we got tasked to deploy – we were slotted to go to Kabul, so we were training up to perform that mission and we got a change of mission down from [Force Readiness Command] that reoriented us,” Garver said. “So the biggest challenge was changing [our] mindset as to the types of missions we would be performing and the environment we would be operating in.”
“The Soldiers that this battalion has are a great cross-section of the local community. We’ve got folks that work for the police department, the fire department, Raytheon, Intel, Honeywell, a number of great companies,” Garver said. “When we go down range we’ll be able to take a lot of those skills that we’ve developed on the civilian side, coupled with our military training, and do a lot of good things. Not only for Task Force Spartan, but also for the folks that will be supporting the mission itself.”
This month marks the 100th anniversary since the Bushmasters deployed to WWI in 1918. Not only did their loved ones say farewell to the Soldiers deploying, they celebrated a long history of proud infantrymen.
“I think it brings a sense of historic value to the Soldiers knowing the lineage that they came from and what they represent in the 158th infantry. They’re very in tune to the lineage of the 158th infantry and the Bushmasters,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Figueroa battalion command sergeant major, 1-158th Infantry.
The profound tie the unit has to their history has driven the Soldiers’ enthusiasm throughout their preparation for this deployment.
“I think the motivation is very high. Just being around these Soldiers is just awesome. I get a sense of pride and dedication to serve when I’m around these Soldiers, they really lift me up,” Figueroa said. “Coming from the active duty side, they really are a different breed. We don’t do this for the paycheck, so the fact that they are here and ready to serve and put their personal lives on hold is just amazing.”
The Soldiers of the 158th are proud of where they come from, and proud of where they are going. They are excited to use all of their valuable training to support Task Force Spartan.
“For the National Guard I think this will help show that we’re fully trained and ready to go. I’m definitely proud to be a part of this unit. The leadership is amazing, the opportunities we’ve had to conduct certain trainings and help grow on the civilian side also has been great,” said Spc. Ross Boyle, a member of Alpha Company, 1-158th Infantry Regiment.