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About 300 members of the Mannheim-based 72nd Signal Battalion left Taylor Barracks early Monday for a yearlong deployment to the Middle East.

Some soldiers will provide communications support — from Internet to satellites — for base camps in Iraq, with others working in Kuwait, said Monica Tullos, public affairs officer for the 5th Signal Command.

The latest deployment comes about a year after battalion members returned from their first deployment to Iraq, from January to November 2004, Tullos said. This time, the 72nd was originally slated to deploy to Kuwait, but the mission changed.

“It was a higher decision as to where they were most needed,” Tullos said.

During the last year, the 72nd has seen many changes, including a turnover of about 60 percent of its personnel, mainly as a result of reassignment, according to an Army news release.

In the past months, battalion members have received hand-to-hand combat training and rifle qualifications to prepare for the realities in Iraq, Tullos said. The battalion had been attacked by insurgents during the last deployment, she said, although no deaths were reported.

“Even though these are signal professionals ... we have to make sure they’re capable and warfighters first,” Tullos said.

While in pre-deployment, the 72nd became the first Army unit to become an “Integrated Theater Signal Battalion,” which allows more functions and capabilities to be done within single groups, Tullos said. One group can now provide Internet networking and other communications needs, where before those duties were more divvied up among units.

The command’s other battalion, the 44th Signal Battalion, will receive similar training as it gets cycled out of Iraq, Tullos said.

“It allows for a single package to have everything they need,” she said.

To help deal with the difficulties in leaving family members behind, a Web site has been set up so families and soldiers can keep in contact, Tullos said. A monthly newsletter is also being established for soldiers and families to keep in touch.

“We realize that family readiness is key to warfighting readiness,” she said. “When they’re not worried about what’s going on in the rear, they can focus on their mission.”


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