The heroism, fortitude, and camaraderie shown by the CNMI Reservists finally comes to light with the completion of a yearbook documenting the group’s one-year Iraqi Freedom III tour-of-duty in Iraq.
SSG Fabian M. Indalecio, who created the yearbook, said the nearly thousand colorful photographs began on Aug. 18, 2004, when the 100 Battalion, 442nd Infantry out of Hawaii headquarters activated close to 100 CNMI reservists to serve a year in Iraq.
During the pre-mobilization phase, the Echo Company was brought to Hawaii to undergo several intense trainings in preparation for their Iraq deployment. The mobilization phase training advanced to the next higher level in Ft. Bliss, Texas. The soldiers were exposed and trained in urban terrain combat missions as well as a convoy live-fire exercises. The validation phase in Ft. Polk, Louisiana, challenged the troops in a simulated combat environment as a means of testing the survival skills of the entire unit.
“The movement to Kuwait tested our mental ability to deal with reality of the uncertainty that lies ahead,” recalled Indalecio.
The initial staging base in Kuwait also allowed all units to prepare for movement into a hostile environment, with an all-weapons testing to ensure 100 percent functionality.
Indalecio was very active in taking pictures and video taping the entire training and mission from the beginning until the end of the deployment.
He conceded, though, that the various missions of Echo Company in Iraq can never be fully understood with a single yearbook, “as only a soldier himself can tell [what happened].” However, as he said it, “I made this yearbook possible to record history and to recognize my fellow soldiers, who deserve to tell their heroic stories about of their training and mission in Iraq.”
After the soldiers came home, though, the project seemed to lose steam. Indalecio recalled telling his commander, Maj. Franklin Babauta: “I gave up with the yearbook because everyone had returned home and nobody wanted to bother making a deposit to help me print the project.”
However, “when I heard about the dedication of the Army Reserve Center for Wilgen Lieto and Derrence Jack on Oct. 28, 2006, I immediately approached my brother-in-law, Brian Clayton, the owner of MegaByte, to ask him to sponsor and fund the yearbook to make it possible,” said Indalecio.
The yearbook, with a hard cover and 200 pages of colored pictures covering the 18-month deployment, opens with the history of the unit, followed with SSG Wilgene Lieto’s and CPL Derrence Jack’s dedication photo. The yearbook is also unique in that it comes with a personal letter to the Echo Company by three-star general James Helmly, Commanding General for the entire U.S. Army Reserve who visited the troops in Hawaii and Ft. Polk, followed by BG John Ma, Commanding General for the 9th Reginal Command in Hawaii.
The portrait of each soldier is also taken in Iraq, making the yearbook unique and memorable for each one.
The yearbook will first be made available on Oct. 28, 2006, at the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Puerto Rico, during the dedication of a building to Lieto and Jack. (PR)