Mayor in touch with troops

In Iraq, where about 50 Oregon Army National Guard Troops from the Rogue Valley are stationed, temperatures have reached 130 degrees this week.

Mayor John Stromberg has been mindful of this, as he has been mindful of many of the details about the lives of the local soldiers stationed there since late July.

After speaking to the troops at a deployment ceremony in Central Point in May, Stromberg realized he didn't want to forget the local soldiers as they combed Iraq for roadside bombs and completed other missions as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I pledged for the whole time they're over there — and it's going to be something like 10 months — that we would be mindful of them," he said.

Stromberg recruited Capt. Karl Haeckler to give him frequent e-mail updates. Haeckler, captain of the 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry, is stationed at the Ashland Army National Guard Armory but communicates via e-mail and phone with Capt. Chris Markesino in Iraq.

The local troops are part of the 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry. The 51 battalion troops from the Ashland Armory are referred to as Headquarters and Headquarters Company. Markesino is leading the Headquarters and Headquarters Company in Tallil, Iraq.

At each City Council meeting, Stromberg gives an update on the soldiers, and he will continue to do so even if the news is grim, he said.

"I think that it's part of our responsibility as community members to stay in touch, and that may be a very difficult experience, but we have to do it," he said.

Shortly after the deployment ceremony, the troops went to Camp Roberts in San Miguel, Calif. for a few weeks of training. Next, they flew to Fort Stewart in Georgia, for more training.

By mid-July, the troops had moved to Camp Beuhring in Kuwait, where they acclimated to the arid climate. About two weeks later, the soldiers crossed the border into Iraq. They are scheduled to remain there until late spring of next year.

Haeckler said the soldiers know and appreciate that the mayor is thinking of them.

"It sure makes a difference, having been on both sides of this, to have a sense that the community from where you come is supporting you," he said.

Stromberg declined to discuss his view on the war, saying it was irrelevant to his support for the soldiers.

"My thoughts on the war absolutely don't matter," he said. "They're out there and we're a community."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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