Guardsmen in Qatar now
SEBRING - National Guardsmen who left Sebring in February for Camp Shelby have reached foreign military bases for their nine-month deployment, Master Sgt. Tom Kielbasa said Friday. Approximately 325 men and woman from units based in Avon Park, Arcadia, Lake Wales and Plant City left the Highlands Today Center in Sebring on Feb. 21, bound for the Joint Forces Training Center in Mississippi. Last month, they arrived in Qatar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Kielbasa said from the Florida National Guard headquarters in Tallahassee. They are to guard several military bases. On this mission, the guardsmen will serve as military police, Kielbasa said. “I don’t think they took their HIMARS with them.”The 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery, was equipped with the new HIMARS multiple launch rocket system in March 2012. From a 6-by-6, 5-ton diesel truck, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System can fire six missiles with a range of 2 to 25 miles. Military-today.com, the Federal Register and other sources reported that the Defense Security Cooperation Agency — a Department of Defense agency — had notified Congress that Qatar wanted to pay $406 million for seven HIMARS systems. The prime contractor will be Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, Texas, Deagel.com reported on Dec. 24. “Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of two contractor representatives to Qatar for a minimum of one year to support delivery of the HIMARS and to provide support and equipment familiarization.” Kielbasa had not heard if the guardsmen are in Qatar to support the HIMARS sale or training. “They are there for security, as far as I know,” he said. While at Camp Shelby, Kielbasa said, the guardsmen may have brushed up on marksmanship, cultural knowledge and mission-specific skills, such as how to deploy to situations they are likely to encounter in Qatar, such as improvised explosive devices. Qatar has avoided most of the fighting in the Middle East, but in recent months Syrians have been gathering in the Arabian Peninsula country with about the same square footage as Hawaii. Qatar has oil and gas and has achieved the Arab world’s highest gross domestic product per capita. The country, which borders Saudi Arabia, produces 14 percent of the world’s petroleum. The United States is Qatar’s largest import partner, and American companies play a key role in the $60 billion that Qatar is investing in roads, infrastructure development, real estate, medical and sanitation projects. Kielbasa said the guardsmen are expected to return nine months after they left Sebring, which would put them back around Thanksgiving.