An Illinois Army National Guard unit co-commanded by a Springfield resident is headed for the Middle East to help train the Iraqi Army in the management of crucial war supplies.


An Illinois Army National Guard unit co-commanded by a Springfield resident is headed for the Middle East to help train the Iraqi Army in the management of crucial war supplies.

The 50 soldiers assigned to the 108th Sustainment Brigade have been training at Fort Riley Kansas since mid-November and should be headed overseas this month. Once they arrive in Iraq, they will teach the Iraqis how to keep combat units supplied with fuel, ammunition, spare parts and anything else they might need to carry on an extended fight.

The unit also will instruct Iraqis on base operation, construction projects, food services, storage, medical services and contract negotiations.

“Our mission is very special due to its nature,” said Lt. Col. Robert “BJ” Mayberry of Springfield, one of the unit’s two team leaders.

“We are being trained to be combat advisers to advise and mentor the Iraqi Army in logistics. This is a relatively new endeavor for the Army, but very important to ending the U.S. Armed Forces stay in Iraq.”

Mayberry, 55, was interviewed via e-mail from Kansas.

The 108th is made up of senior guardsmen from throughout Illinois, he said. Everyone has a rank of at least sergeant, and almost half are officers.

Several of the guardsmen have been deployed to Iraq before, and Mayberry’s command sergeant major, the highest ranking enlisted soldier, has been deployed twice.

“Many of us have diverse civilian jobs as well as what we do in the Guard. We have city planners, a mortician, lawyers, policemen, internet and communication specialists, individuals that are employed and several full-time logisticians for the Illinois Army National Guard,” Mayberry said.

Mayberry said that, once overseas, the Guardsmen will watch out for each other. Each soldier will have a buddy who will make sure that they are sleeping, eating and drinking enough water.

“Our Fort Riley trainers have commented about our camaraderie and cohesiveness as well as our ability to be self-sufficient several times,” he said.

Mayberry joined the Army in 1972 and initially served until 1976. He was stationed in West Germany during most of that time. He joined the Illinois Army National Guard in 1982 and has worked out of Springfield and Chicago.

In 2003, he returned to Springfield to be maintenance manager in the unit’s the Surface Maintenance Office.

He is confident in the ability of his team, and said there is a lot riding on their shoulders.

“We know that if we fail, it will not only affect ourselves and our team, but also the ability for our fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to complete their mission and leave Iraq too,” Mayberry said.



John Reynolds can be reached at (217) 788-1524.