European edition, Thursday, May 10, 2007

VILSECK, Germany — The 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment will conduct a mission rehearsal exercise in June at Hohenfels’ Joint Multinational Readiness Center to prepare troops for deployment to Iraq in August.

On Tuesday, the Department of Defense announced that 10 brigades, including 2nd Cav and Baumholder’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, will deploy to Iraq between August and December.

Maj. Jon Pendell, a 2nd Cav spokesman, said Wednesday that the unit is equipped, trained and ready to deploy.

“There is a buzz and an aura of excitement (in Vilseck). A lot of soldiers are looking forward to the deployment,” he said.

The 2nd Cav returned from its last yearlong tour to Mosul, Iraq — as the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division — 16 months ago before moving to Vilseck early last year.

Pendell said many of the soldiers assigned to the unit joined 2nd Cav after its last downrange mission but that they have trained hard since arriving in Germany. In January and February, 2nd Cav conducted Operation Dragoon Thunder at the JMRC to certify the unit as ready to deploy.

The brigade will do a mission rehearsal exercise at the JMRC in June and members of the unit will take block leave in July, Pendell said.

The Iraq mission is a normal deployment and not part of the surge of extra troops intended to stabilize Baghdad, he added.

A rear detachment will remain at Vilseck during the mission to take care of soldiers’ families, he said.

“Families will be taken care of here and we will make sure they have everything they need while their husband or wife is downrange,” he said.

One of the 2nd Cav soldiers preparing to deploy, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Mariaca, 34, of Phoenix, said he’s been downrange before — with the 1st Cavalry Division in Al Anbar province, Iraq, from 2004 to 2005.

The Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Company soldier said the deployment announcement was not a surprise, given all the mission-focused training 2nd Cav has done.

Mariaca said he plans to visit his son in Austin, Texas, for two weeks before he deploys.

It will be the first trip to Iraq for another RHHC soldier, Pfc. Chris Erikson, 23, of Seattle. The young medic admitted he is a little nervous about the mission but added that he’s also excited.

Veteran 2nd Cav soldiers have advised him to train as hard as possible before heading for the desert.

“I’ve been studying hard and learning everything I can as far as anatomy and physiology goes, basically anything I can do to be better at saving lives,” Erikson said.

The worst injuries he’s treated so far are bones broken in training accidents, he said.

Since he arrived in Germany last February, Erikson said, he’s used his time here to explore Europe, visiting England, Ireland, France and the Czech Republic.

“I’ve liked it here in Germany so far. We’re just moving onto a different adventure, I guess,” 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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