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Local combat veterans live a life of service

Posted 11/08/16 (Tue)

Local combat veterans live a life of service

By Sydney Glasoe Caraballo

They drove down the so-called Supply Road Tampa through Baghdad in a 1970 dump truck lined with sand bags for meager protection. Sun soaked and sand blasted, the soldiers scanned the roadside for metal glinting in the light, disturbed dirt, an abandoned pile of watermelons – anything that looked slightly different from the day before.

They knew every inch of this road, every inch of their route. Hour after hour, day after day they hunted down roadside bombs and detonated them.

Deployed to Iraq in 2004, they became known as Trailblazers – combat engineers from the Williston unit of the North Dakota National Guard 164th Engineer Company (now known as the 818th). Several of them called Divide County home.

Locals Joe Francetich, Justin (Jay) Lampert, Rodney Johnson, Curtis Nygaard and Allen Shefstad all deployed together from March 2004 to March 2005 after the 2003 invasion of Iraq to assist a U.S.-led coalition of occupying forces.

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