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National Guard Soldiers Protect VIPs Visiting Baghdad

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 29, 2005 – Providing security for distinguished U.S. visitors in Baghdad is necessary, Army Cpl. Fred Senethavilay pointed out, because the Iraqi capital city "is not a safe place."

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Texas Army National Guard infantrymen Staff Sgt. Barry D. Gumaer, left, and Cpl. Fred Senethavilay, stand watch inside the U.S. headquarters complex inside the International Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, July 27. The two Guardsmen provide personal security for visiting VIPs. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Senethavilay, 22, said he and his partner, Staff Sgt. Barry D. Gumaer, are infantrymen deployed to Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard's 111th Engineer Battalion, which has its headquarters in Abilene. Both soldiers work personal security details at the Joint Visitors Bureau here.

The two machine-gun-toting, Kevlar-clad soldiers participated in an American Forces Press Service interview in Baghdad July 27 during Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's recent trip to Iraq.

Senethavilay said he and Gumaer both view their work as "very serious business," as the duo stood watch inside the U.S. headquarters complex inside the International Zone, formally known as the "Green Zone."

"We've been charged with the care of some very important people," said Gumaer, a 33-year-old Dallas native.

Gumaer said he and Senethavilay ensure that VIPs placed in their care have "a safe and a successful trip when they come over here."

Senethavilay, who hails from Garland, Texas, acknowledged that duty in Baghdad gets dangerous at times, noting he and Gumaer have witnessed insurgents' small-arms, mortar, and rocket fire.

"We've been very lucky," noted Gumaer, who'd previously served in Iraq in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. No one in their unit has been hurt during the seven months he and Senethavilay have been in Iraq on this tour, he said.

A former active-duty soldier with a family tradition of military service, Gumaer, who plans to re-enlist, said his 13 years of Army experiences have helped him to focus on personal "goals and directions in life."

Senethavilay joined the Army shortly after his high school graduation, he said, believing military service to be a good way to start a career. He now has five years of military service.

The Army "has taught me a lot," Senethavilay pointed out, to include "discipline and direction."

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