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With the 1st Armored Division Headquarters due to depart for Iraq soon, the military community in Wiesbaden, Germany, figured Thursday would be a good time to fire up a few grills and have a party.

“We’re trying to have a day of fellowship and family,” said Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, spokeswoman for the 1st AD.

That means setting aside for a day the many details associated with a lengthy deployment. The 1st AD headquarters and related support units, about 1,200 troops in all, are preparing to leave this month for a 15-month tour to northern Iraq. There, they will oversee about 30,000 U.S. ground forces and five Iraqi divisions.

Thursday’s informal send-off starts at 8:30 a.m. with a five-kilometer fun run/walk. At the same time, a health fair will get under way at the new fitness facility. It will last until the Southern-style rock band Massy Ferguson gets cranking at 3 p.m.

In between, at about noon, a departure ceremony will be held on the 1st AD parade field. Afterward, the guys will get the grills going for a barbecue and the day will shift gears, with soldiers, families and friends kicking back to enjoy a little camaraderie.

There also will be activities for children.

The event is a chance, Kageleiry said, “to celebrate the professionalism and the sacrifices of the soldiers going off to Iraq, and the families are a part of it.”

With Friday being an off day, the gathering will officially wind down at about 5 p.m., giving participants an early start to another long weekend.

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