August 27, 2007

Winsted native is part of task force praised for its service in Iraq

Task Force ‘Blackjack’ praised for its combat service in Iraq

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Signs were sprinkled around the town of Winsted Aug. 18 reading, “Welcome home, Will Pace.”

The signs were placed by family and friends of Pace who have been waiting for this particular day for one year, eight months, and 15 days.

Pace has been serving as a Chinook helicopter crew chief in the National Guard since February 2006, a job he enjoyed so much he re-enlisted for another six years, serving until 2013.

For right now, he is home and is considered a civilian, but employed by the federal government as a Chinook helicopter technician and will continue to work out of the Army Aviation Support Facility hangar in St. Paul.

Pace, stationed in Balad, Iraq, was part of the task force “Blackjack,” which has been praised for its combat service.

Pace’s battalion began training together in March 2006 at Fort Hood, Texas. It was deployed into Iraq in September 2006, and this month is returning home.

In a video made just for the task force Blackjack, it states that during its time in combat, the battalion has become one of the Army’s premier air-assault units.

The unit is credited with executing more than 5,302 missions, 111 night-time combat air-assaults into enemy villages and desert sanctuaries throughout Iraq, and inserted 15,500 troops in to enemy objectives. This equates to an entire US Army Division. The staggering number doesn’t even count the return trip – only the infiltration.

Blackjack has transferred more than 6,600 patients to critical medical care (1,700 of these patients were classified as “urgent,” meaning they had roughly one hour to move or risk losing their lives); 2,990 of these injuries were crucial “point of injury” missions, meaning a soldier was on the side of a road or outside the forward operating base when he was hit and needed evacuation.

The Blackjacks have moved more than 11,905,872 pounds of miscellaneous cargo, pumped more than 3,264,122 gallons of fuel, and flown more than 21,861 hours.

“. . . And so as the soldiers of Task Force Blackjack get ready to leave Iraq, they will leave knowing they helped support the ground fight, while also saving lives along the way,” Lt. Col. Chris Petty, the 2-135th commander of the task force Blackjack said, “This has been the ultimate team effort to make this mission work . . . These soldiers will leave the field without much left in the ‘tank’ – they really gave it their all.”

Pace admitted looking forward to returning home after his latest service in Iraq.

“I was ready. The days started to get a little long,” Pace said.

Temperatures along the helicopter flightline were between 130 and 140 degrees.

There is no air conditioning inside the Chinook, and wearing 60 pounds of gear; including armor, helmets and guns, had to get a little uncomfortable.

Pace shows no sign of combat fatigue. With his relaxed manner and a ready smile, it was evident he is glad to be home and to be surrounded by his family.

One person, in particular, was very happy to be reunited with him at the Army Aviation Support Facility hangar in St. Paul – his fiance, Krystal Rojina, who is also from Winsted. They are planning an April wedding.

After getting his truck running, getting insurance on it and license tabs, Pace is now able to drive for the first time in almost two years – just one of the many things he will need to take care of to get back to everyday living.

He will relax for a few days, then move into a new apartment in Chaska in the beginning of September.

Beginning Monday, Sept. 17, he will start working at St. Paul’s hangar. There are plans to build a new hangar in St. Cloud to be ready by 2009. At that time, he and Krystal will look for a house in that area.

For now, Pace doesn’t want to do anything except spend time with his family and friends and make up for being gone the last two years.

Back to Current Stories Menu | Back to Archives List
Herald Journal
Stories | Columns | Obituaries | Classifieds
Guides | Sitemap | Search | Dassel-Cokato Home | Delano Home | HJ Home