1st AD unit says goodbye to families, hello to Iraq
January 6, 2006
FRIEDBERG, Germany — With a stolid resolve that matched the gray sky above, the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade said goodbye to Germany for a second deployment to Iraq on Thursday morning during a ceremony at Ray Barracks.
Ready First soldiers headed into Iraq in May 2003 for an approximately one-year tour, and returned about 18 months ago. Now, the same unit will start heading out in the coming weeks for another year at an undisclosed location in Iraq.
Members of the 1st AD’s 2nd Brigade are already in Kuwait and are scheduled to remain there as a call-forward force for the U.S. Central Command.
Soldiers and spouses alike said Thursday that this tour would be different than the last.
“I’m expecting a smarter insurgency,” said 1st Sgt. Louis Barnum of the 36th Infantry Regiment.
Barnum expects a more sophisticated enemy, one that has honed its use of roadside bombs and car bombs. “It’s a difference between night and day with these deployments,” he said.
But the U.S. military has also had time to establish itself, and Barnum said he looks forward to more infrastructure for the troops.
“The weather is perfect, it’s clear,” the 1st AD commander, Maj. Gen. Fred Robinson Jr., said to the brigade Thursday as a scattered laugh rippled through the cold crowd. “You look great, you look ready.”
More time will be spent working with Iraqi forces this time, he said, and the soldiers will need to take care of one another.
“The situation in Iraq is unpredictable,” Robinson said.
Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of troops for the brigade, greeted his soldiers Thursday on what he called “a somber and otherwise chilly morning.”
“I’m sure every Ready First soldier will remember this day fondly, especially when the temperature gets over 100 degrees in the summer,” he said of the coming Iraqi heat.
MacFarland said the Iraq of 2006 is vastly different from the one the brigade departed in 2004.
“Counterinsurgencies are tough,” he said. “Lawrence of Arabia likened it to eating soup with a knife.”
Before the ceremony, Anna Gonzalez sat in the bleachers, waiting for her husband, Sgt. David Gonzalez, to appear with the rest of the brigade.
With a second deployment, there is a lot of concern, she said, adding that she is pregnant and expecting in June.
“It’s really scary not knowing exactly where my husband is going,” she said. “But that’s his job.”
Sharon Johnson, whose husband, Sgt. Lawrenzo Johnson, was being deployed for a third time, said she and their 10-year-old daughter have gotten used to it.
“It helps when you have a good support group,” she said.
Standing with his wife, Kimberlee, after the ceremony, Sgt. Peter Bazo said he was last downrange with the 1st AD’s 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, on the tail end of the invasion force in 2003.
“I’m curious to see how Iraq has changed,” he said.
Pride was the main emotion many spouses said they felt Thursday as they prepared to be separated once more from their loved ones.
“I feel pretty confident about it,” Kimberlee Bazo said. “And I’m proud of him for it.”