BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, tomorrow 145 Montana Guardsmen will kiss their husbands and wives, hug their children, say goodbye to their friends, and get on a plane from Billings, MT to Afghanistan. Two weeks from today 95 more Montanans will do the same. Together these 240 Montana Guardsmen are in the long line of thousands of Montanans to deploy since 9/11. More Montanans signed up for service after 9/11 than any other State in the country per capita. Since then, 6,668 Montana Guardsmen were deployed. Montana's Guard has deployed at among the highest rate in the country.
Each and every deployment requires enormous sacrifices from the Guardsmen themselves, their families holding down the fort at home, their employers, and entire communities. They make these sacrifices quietly. They perform their missions with excellence, professionalism, and without bragging. So I want to do a little bragging on their behalf and salute each and every one as they prepare for combat.
The 484th Military Police Company leaving tomorrow is based in Malta, Glasgow, and Billings. Their mission will be to help train the Afghan national police. They will be immersed in the Afghan culture, working hand in hand with the local officers deep in the heart of the city precincts. What an incredibly important and challenging task, and they are ready.
They have been training hard for this job for more than a year. Many of them will bring invaluable experience in civilian law enforcement that will be critical to this mission.
The 260th Engineering Support Company will also leave Montana April 30 for a year-long tour in Afghanistan. The unit is from Miles City, Culbertson, and Sidney. They will perform the dangerous mission of clearing explosives off roads and protecting U.S. convoys from Taliban attacks. The 95 members of this unit have received specialized explosive training and they are ready to go.
This past February 60 members of the Bravo Company 1st of the 189th General Support Aviation Brigade left Helena for a tour in Afghanistan. Their unit flies and maintains six CH 47 Chinook helicopters and has a lifeline of supplies, ammunition, food, and water for air troops. They help get the troops where they need to go to accomplish their missions quickly and safely.
Last March, 12 Montana Guardsmen returned from duty in Iraq and Kuwait. They flew C 12s, getting troops where they needed to go to accomplish top-priority missions.
In 2011, nearly 100 Montana troops deployed again to Iraq. They were Charlie Company 1st of the 189th, and they were among the last of the combat troops on the ground. They provided medevac support for the famous road march that brought our troops out of Iraq from Camp Adder, near Nasiriyah, to the Khabari border crossing into Kuwait.
In 2010, more than 600 Montana Guard troops served in Iraq, and thousands more had deployed there in previous years.
Our Air Guard has been busy. In 2010, 99 members of the Red Horse squadron, an engineer unit, spent a year working in Afghanistan. They built about every kind of structure you can imagine to support the mission on the ground, from fixing airfields, so our troops could land and take off safely, to constructing observation towers vital to intelligence on the ground, to drilling wells to bring water to some of the most dangerous parts of the country.
At the same time, dozens of Montana airmen have deployed to support the Air Sovereignty Alert in the Pacific. They are our first line of defense in the Pacific, on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
On top of all this, 53 Montana Airmen deployed individually to support missions over the course of the last year in Bahrain, Cuba, Djibouti, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, and a number of other locations around the world.
The Guard has their mission at home as well. When flooding hit Montana last week, the Montana National Guard troops were some of the first folks to respond with a helping hand. When Highway 12 was washed out, the town of Roundup basically became an island. The Montana Guard was their bridge, carrying supplies back and forth.
It is an understatement to say these guys are busy. They are volunteers, and they are balancing their military service with their civilian careers at home. We can't thank them enough for what they are doing.
It is hard to capture the nature of their service unless one has seen it firsthand. During my visit to Afghanistan, I was so impressed by the service and professionalism of our troops serving there. They were remarkable.
One brief story from a guardsman serving in Iraq in 2011 captures the spirit of who those men and women are. Montana Specialist Chvilicek was serving as a medic in a convoy near Balad. His convoy hit an IED which cut Specialist Chvilicek's arm and ear with shrapnel. Instead of attending to his own wounds, Specialist Chvilicek immediately sprang into action, providing medical care to his fellow soldiers. That is remarkable, but it is not uncommon. That is exactly the kind of spirit these troops have.
Our Nation has been at war now for more than 10 years. These men and women represent the 1 percent of our country serving in the military who are bearing a very heavy load for the rest of us.
Montanans do not take these men and women for granted. Friends, families, neighbors and communities show up to wish them well when they deploy and greet them when they return home. They send care packages overseas and fill in as babysitters here at home. They provide hands to hold and ears to listen.
To every Montanan serving as part of that support system and to every employer of a national guardsmen: thank you for what you do.
Last year I had the honor of attending a deployment ceremony in Helena. A mother told me about what it was like when her husband was deployed.
To sum up what she said: It's not easy for these families. For months, there is one fewer helping hand around the house to help out with the carpools, the homework, the leaky faucets, the lawn mowing, and everything else that goes into raising a family day to day.
Our military families shoulder a heavy load to support the loved ones who deploy. But you will never hear them complain. They are proud of their service.
It is our job to do our part to make sure our troops and our families are taken care of when they come home. A big part of that is making sure they have jobs to come home to. Recent unemployment figures show that 9.1 percent of current or past members of the Reserve or National Guard were unemployed. In Montana that number is as high as 20 percent for our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to work hard to bring that figure down.
I was proud to work on getting a tax credit to help businesses hire our veterans.
And this week I am meeting with representatives from the Military Officers Association of America to discuss more ways we can help.
One important piece is simply getting the word out. With the help of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, we can make sure that both veterans and employers know about it and take full advantage of the credit.
In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote: ``These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.''
The Montana Guardsmen leaving this month, their families and entire communities, will face a true trial in Afghanistan. We thank them deeply for their service and sacrifice.
To every Guardsmen deploying tomorrow: Thank you for your service. And good luck. Please know you are on our minds and in our hearts each and every day.
I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT