U.S. soldiers return from Middle East NATO mission

U.S. Soldiers return from Middle East NATO mission
Sgt. Jared Marunowski, Staff Sgt. Anthony Hunkins and Staff Sgt. Michelle Phillips participate in a road march hosted by the Canadian Contingent of NATO Mission Iraq to mark the 105th anniversary of the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge. Photo credit U.S. Army

Seven U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 2nd NATO Signal Battalion returned home July 22 after supporting NATO Mission Iraq for the last six months.

NATO Mission Iraq is a non-combat advisory, training and capacity-building mission supporting Iraq in strengthening its security institutions and forces, so that they are able to stabilize their country, fight terrorism, and prevent the return of Daesh.

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“We provided communications to the NATO Mission Iraq advisors who are there to support Iraqi defense and security officials in their Ministry of Defense, Office of the National Security Advisor, and the prime minister’s National Operations Center,” said Staff Sgt. Michelle Phillips, an information technology specialist from Detroit, Michigan.

“Usually, when I’ve been on a mission, you get there, you set up, get comms up, do the mission and go home,” said Phillips. “…this mission was more about making quality of life better for the users.”

In addition to their daily assignments, these Soldiers had opportunities to participate in special missions and work closely with international counterparts to overcome technical, tactical, and cultural challenges.

“We had to find a way to move some communications systems from the NATO mission server room to an Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) server room and had to build that relationship with OIR,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Hunkins, an information technology specialist from Killeen, Texas. “That gave me the opportunity to work with Task Force Pioneer, the 4th ID (Infantry Division), and with CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) OIR personnel to get an understanding of what our left and right limits were as far as sharing a communications room.”

“The one at the war college was really cool,” said Sgt. Jared Marunowski, satellite communications systems operator/maintainer from Houston, Texas. “That was NMI and OIR general officers going there to teach. They actually had the secretary of defense for Iraq there.”

“I would recommend this mission to other signal Soldiers because you get to spend more time on equipment,” said Marunowski. “The assignment there was very knowledge intensive trying to set that up and get it working.”

All activities of NATO Mission Iraq are at the request of the Iraqi government and conducted in full respect of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. All 30 NATO members and three partner nations (Australia, Finland and Sweden) contribute to NATO Mission Iraq. Currently, the mission consists of several hundred military and civilian advisors and support elements.

2nd NATO Signal Battalion is a multi-national organization assigned to the NATO Communications Information Systems Group. The battalion is headquartered in Grazzanise, Italy and is comprised of service members and NATO civilians from nine NATO nations.