CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Families of 2nd Infantry Division soldiers deploying to Iraq will take part in a three-day exercise beginning Friday to prepare them for a year’s separation from spouses and parents.

The Desert Strike Family Readiness Exercise, which takes place at Camp Hovey, involves South Korea-based families of soldiers from 2nd ID’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team. About 3,600 members learned last month they’ll be sent to Iraq in late summer.

Many soldiers with U.S.-based families have spent the last two weeks on block leave visiting them and are set to train for the Iraq mission in the coming weeks, officials said. The Family Readiness exercise focuses on soldiers’ families living in South Korea. Most of those families in Area I are not command sponsored.

A range of support groups will provide information during the exercise, including the American Red Cross, Army Community Services, Army Emergency Relief, 2nd ID’s 177th Finance Company and 509th Personnel Services Battalion, the division chaplain, Area One Transportation, Ration Control, Staff Judge Advocate, Tricare and the United Service Organizations.

After the briefings, families will be able to question, and get updated information from, the organizations’ representatives. Russian, Tagalog and Hangul language translators also will be on hand to help.

Meanwhile, workers have begun a $60,000-plus renovation project to establish a new family assistance center at Camp Casey. The facility will be what U.S. Army officials called the “centerpiece of support” for family members affected by the deployment.

The family assistance center will aim to serve 127 families, or 232 people, according to an Area I public affairs statement.

“The center, located adjacent to the Camp Casey Army Community Service building, will provide computers with Internet access, e-mail and web-cam capabilities. Second Infantry Division officials plan to provide quality electronic communications” with deployed soldiers, the statement said.

The facility is slated to receive 20 cubicle-style workstations with high-speed desktop computers and will feature a toll-free information number, the statement said.

Officials hope to begin 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operations at the facility by month’s end, the statement said.

“We will be able to help with any issues that may arise,” said Col. Thomas Devine, the 2nd Aviation Brigade commander, who will oversee the new facility.

“Our goal is to have the family members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team pleased with the excellent service and support they receive throughout the operation.”

Devine said establishing the family assistance center is aimed at letting soldiers focus on combat operations and worry less about their families’ welfare.

Brig. Gen. Robert L. Decker, chief of the Army Community Family Support Center, visited South Korea this week to aid in family support preparations for the deployment, the Area I statement said.

In a recent radio interview, Maj. Gen. John R. Wood, the 2nd ID commanding general, said he’s pushing Decker to continue a project he gave him about six months ago.

“This project would create a virtual community for this distributed family that we have. So, we can contact families and keep the information flowing to the group in the United States, and then deal directly here with the families who are going to be staying behind or the families that choose to move back to the United States,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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