As deployment nears, 2nd BCT soldiers, families try to exude confidence, subdue fears
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — There are some military ceremonies that are routine to the point of boring.
Not deployment ceremonies.
From the first time to the last, deploying to war is elementally dramatic, and in the formations and the reviewing stands, 5,000 hearts beat faster, thinking about the year to come.
Profound as weddings, births, baptisms, first communions or graduations, the deployment ceremony is the dividing line between whatever doubts people might have and the reality of duty and responsibility.
When it came time Thursday for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s deployment ceremony, Maj. Gen. Doug Robinson acknowledged the profoundness of the day and the vast complexities of the mission.
“This will not be an easy mission,” said Robinson, 1st Armored Division commander. With the return to combat, soldiers will have to deal with the “extreme challenges” Iraq can throw at them — heat, fear, exhaustion.
“You will see death and devastation,” Robinson said. Soldiers with 1st AD must expect to go from humanitarian relief to combat, “all within hours or minutes of one another,” he said.
But he added they could also look forward to seeing “hope in the children’s eyes and hear words of gratitude from a people … struggling to achieve a new way of life.”
Thursday marked the second deployment for many of the roughly 4,500 troops on Minnick Field in the center of H.D. Smith Barracks, “and I understand it does not come easily,” Robinson said.
This time, though, soldiers and families had much more time to prepare, from training at Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels during the 18 months since they returned, to a bon voyage carnival with free rides and refreshments at Baumholder.
But there are unknowns — exactly what the 2nd BCT will do and where its soldiers will go in an environment that ranges from fairly stable to sustained combat is still highly classified, according to 1st AD and Army sources at the Pentagon.
Clearly, though, the overall situation in Iraq is far more volatile than in 2003, which is causing deep concern.
“It’s scarier than the first time because you know what can happen down there,” said Nicole Taylor, whose husband, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Taylor was making his second trip to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.
That said, Chad Taylor added, soldiers have a lot better idea of what to expect, even though “the enemy is changing. They’re evolving.”
Understanding counterinsurgency, too, has evolved radically from the first deployment, and Robinson told his soldiers that intensified and expanded training has prepared them for any mission.
“You have trained and mastered the tactics of urban patrols, cordon searches, raids, convoys, ambushes … soldiers trained and ready to fight on a multidimensional battlefield,” he said.
In the final analysis, Thursday’s deployment ceremony underscored what every person here knows — soldiering is simply a dangerous, demanding line of work.
“It’s like any [hazardous] job … like policemen. You know it’s going to happen. You know what to expect,” said Maj. Eloy Guerra, who’s on his first deployment with 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment.
“It’s going to be cool,” said Spc. Broderick Punch, 20, of Houston, who was about to embark with 141st Signal Battalion on his second Iraq rotation.
“This one should be no problem,” Punch said as he waited to go on a ride at the free carnival.
“It’s going to be all right.”