He Wants to Give Something Back
(June 27, 2010)
Tennessee Army National
Guardsman Sgt. 1st Class Mike Weeden of I Troop,
(Sweetwater, Tenn.), 2nd Squadron, 278th ACR,
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) teaches
from notes on the different types of IED's his
platoon could encounter during their deployment
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION TAJI, Iraq – Sept. 11, 2001,
was a day most Americans remember in detail; where they were
that morning when they heard the news of a vicious attack
that will forever live in their minds.
The initial vagueness of who attacked us and the rising
number of victims hung a surreal emotional pall on all of
us. It was a monumental day for Americans.
For Sgt. 1st Class Mike Weeden a platoon sergeant with Troop
Iron Horse, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, “the attack was
a punch in the gut and a wakeup call,” said the former
Weeden grew up in Orange County, N.Y., farm country. The
area lies south of the United States Military Academy at
West Point, in a corner where New York, New Jersey and
Pennsylvania come together.
He grew up helping his grandfather on his dairy farm. From a
young age through adolescence he progressed upward in the
level of difficult tasks and the responsibility of running
the farm. By the age of nine, when most kids were playing
T-ball, he was operating the farm tractor.
The 38-year-old veteran with a faded New York accent
work ethic that taught him to work through
difficulty and to conquer challenges.
It undoubtedly prepared him for the U.S. Marine Corps and
for multiple deployments to Iraq with the Tennessee Army
In his mid teens Weeden and his mother moved to East
Tennessee. On graduation from Tellico Plains High School in
Tellico, Tenn., he joined the Marines.
As a young Marine he mastered the various small arms and
crew served weapons that are the basic tools of the Corps,
as well as heavy weapons.
In his first two years as a Marine, Weeden served in a
security force guarding special weapons on both land and
sea. Afterward, he went to the fleet with 2nd Battalion, 7th
Marines out of 29 Palms, Calif.
“We traveled a lot. We did a lot of throw the stuff over
your back and go,” said Weeden.
Missions took him to Panama, Guam, Okinawa and Norway. He
spent three months on border patrol in Arizona and trained
for both cold weather and mountain climbing in Bridgeport,
He learned to use donkeys and pack mules to transport heavy
weapons coupled with mountain survival training.
The red headed, ruddy faced sergeant performed “ship to
shore” missions at Camp Pendleton, Calif. using hovercraft
and “storm the beach” training in Thailand and Hong Kong and
along with port calls in Australia.
In ‘92 and ‘93 he trained Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian soldiers
following Desert Storm. By ‘95 covert training missions were
standard fares including taking air fields in the Philippine
Islands while training with Philippine soldiers.
“Most of my training and world situational experience was
with the Marine Corps,” he said.
“We were on deployment when Somalia [crisis] hit. We were
the first ones to respond to it.”
“We [Marines] evacuated U.S. and Somalia officials and set
up a perimeter to stabilize the situation. When our
deployment was up we handed it off to another Marine
After 911 the former Marine drill instructor and paratrooper
tried to rejoin the Marines but were initially denied. The
Marines loss was the TNARNG's gain.
“I looked around and at the old unit in Sweetwater, Tenn.,
not far from where I lived in Athens, Tenn. I joined the
unit in July 2002 and have been a part of it since.”
In late 2004, Weeden completed his first deployment to Iraq
with the 278th. He was handpicked to be part of 1st Squadron
Commander, Lt. Col. Mark Harts' personal security detail.
Articulate and soft spoken, Weeden recalled coming through
Camp Buehring in Kuwait and getting ready for the trip north
“We came here and added armor to our vehicles. At the time,
IED attacks were on the rise and most of our vehicles were
soft shelled. We were to convoy into Iraq and we wanted to
make sure we were ready. A lot of initiative to add armor
came from within our units.”
“Prior to arriving,” he continued, “we were led to believe
up armor kits for HMMV's would be here waiting for us.”
Throughout the regiment, soldiers were scavenging at Camp
Arifjan, pronounced (air-if-john) and at an army salvage
yard here (Kuwait), picking up steel and resources like
acetylene tanks for cutting steel.
“A lot of what we did only created a false sense of
protection but it eased your mind some that at least you had
some additional steel.”
Weeden said Hart used his PSD for all sorts of missions
including Quick Reaction Force, a platoon of Soldiers and
their equipment prepared to meet any emergency on or off the
“We assisted other teams. We escorted the colonel to the
other 278th bases north east of Bagdad and along the border
with Iran. We took him to meetings in Tikrit and to meet
with border guards.”
“We did “snatch and grab” missions of suspected terrorist
and we patrolled vast amounts of real estate,” said Weeden.
One mission the veteran vividly recalled was a shootout
south of the town of Balad Ruz in a remote canal laced area
called Turki village.
On the morning of April 4, 2005, a Military Transition Team,
American Soldiers training Iraqi soldiers, led a small
company of Iraqi soldiers into an area called Turki, South
of the city of Balad Ruz.
The team was looking for a weapons cache based on
intelligence from an informant. That afternoon the team ran
into a complex attack.
The enemy was dug into the canal system with rocket
propelled grenades, several mortars, numerous machine guns
and small arms. They had laid out an ambush site with
multiple fall-back positions and were engaged and the MITT
team was pinned down.
When our QRF arrived we flanked the enemy's left with
our-crew served weapons on gun trucks and tried to suppress
them. Both U.S. and Iraqi forces had multiple casualties by
this point, said Weeden.
Several times during the battle the QRF took so much fire
they had to withdraw from the enemy kill zone. The battle
continued into the night with Kiowa helicopters providing
suppressive fire while Americans conducted eight medevac
missions to remove the wounded.
A U.S. Air Force AC 130 Gun Ship was called in to prowl the
sky above the battleground, destroying the enemy's vehicles
with heavy ordinance and preventing the enemy's escape.
At this point Weeden said the QRF moved forward to engage
the enemy. “We took a prisoner who was treated for wounds
and evacuated to an American hospital at Balad Air Base,
where he refused further treatment and died. This fighter
turned out to be an Iraqi policeman who had turned bad.”
“I think when all the bodies were counted, 23 insurgents had
been killed including some wounded who escaped in the night
but were found dead later in surrounding villages.”
This would be the largest battle any unit of the regiment
would fight during the deployment.
When the 278th deployment ended in Nov. ‘05, Weeden stayed
in Iraq attached to the 48th Infantry Brigade from the
Georgia Army National Guard.
“With the 48th I worked out of FOB Stryker inside the Bagdad
International Airport. We would do 12 hours on, 12 hours
off. We did route clearance missions with Bradleys. Next we
would rotate into QRF”.
He said three towns south of Bagdad were hot and heavy with
insurgents. There were lots of fire fights and IEDs as we
were trying to push out into remote areas. We were trying to
catch bad guys in our up-armored vehicles. “We didn't stand
He returned home for three months, and volunteered to go to
Ft. Bliss, Texas, and be trained in air defense to prepare
for his next assignment.
He deployed back to Iraq in ‘06 and worked in air defense in
and around Bagdad.
“Putting the systems in place was the hardest part. Combined
with radar from surrounding locations it worked out pretty
“By ‘07 our success rate of being able to track and warn was
85%. We could track small arms and even people hitting golf
balls. If an object traveled toward an apex we could track
“We tracked mortars, rockets and even celebratory fire. We
got good at distinguishing false threats from real. The
system was that good, he said.”
Weeden said he looks forward to his 2010 deployment to Iraq
with the 2nd Squadron of the 278th and the U.S. pulling out.
“I'm looking forward to seeing the Iraqis finally stepping
up and taking control of their country and it means less
U.S. personnel on the roads.”
I Troop 1st Sgt. Ronnie Houston of Greeneville, Tenn. said,
“Weeden brings so much experience to the table with all his
previous deployment experience. He is the real deal, the
composite of what a non-commissioned officer should be.”
As for his Iron Horse Troop, he is confident in his platoon
and his Troop. The three squad leaders under him are all
veterans and he expressed confidence in them as leaders and
“Weeden is thorough; there is no phoniness in him. He won't
ask you to do anything he won't do himself,” said Sgt. James
Pearce of Spring City, Tenn. and a member of the platoon.
One thing he said he stresses to his subordinates is to try
and get them to think like the insurgents, especially as to
where they would place roadside bombs or any other method
the enemy would use to deliver an explosive to target.
Weeden describes his personal leadership style as hard-nosed
and straight to the point.
Weeden said his Troop is tight. The three platoon sergeants
are also tight and they work hard to solidify the Army
Strong family spirit.
“I can't tell you how many cookouts we had at Camp Shelby
during pre mobilization. We cooked chili at the live fire
range on a twenty degree day. We made a Wal-Mart run, got
what we needed, and as our soldiers came off the firing line
they had a hot meal. That's how you create a tight Unit.”
Weeden credits his grandfather who served in the U.S. Army
in WWII and again in the Korean War as the father he didn't
have growing up. He taught him to work hard, work through
difficult things, and refuse to fail.
Weeden plans to stay in the National Guard but when this
deployment ends. He said he will put in for a tour to
Afghanistan with a National Guard unit, an afterward he
wants to attend M2 Bradley Master Gunner School.
The awe and horror of 911 reminded Weeden that he had much
to offer and much to give back to his country and he came
back in to the TNARNG to teach all he had learned.
He said re-enlisting wasn't an emotional decision. “I
learned so much in the Marine Corps and I knew it was my
time to give back. It's like a revolving cycle. If you're a
father and you have a son you've got to hand off things you
learned to him.”
The 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment is under the command of
the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
By Army SSgt. Thomas Greene|
278TH Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National
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