Goodbyes follow time to bond, barbeque
European edition, Friday, September 7, 2007
WIESBADEN, Germany — While her husband is away, Nancy King just may pick up a club and give golf another swing.
Young children aside, she’ll have some time to play, what with her partner on tour.
“I’m awful,” King said of her golfing game. “I try. I’m really athletic, but I always shank it.”
King joined other spouses of deploying 1st Armored Division soldiers for a round of bonding and barbecuing before the first batch of troops heads downrange next week. Over the next several weeks, the balance of the division’s headquarters staff and related support units, about 1,200 soldiers in all, will wend its way south.
Thursday’s farewell included a health fair — that’s where King felt the drive to golf — a fun run, hot food, cold drinks and a band to boot. The featured performer was the Southern-style rock band Massy Ferguson.
The event helped ease the separation of families.
“I always hate leaving them,” Staff Sgt. André Jones said, nodding in the direction of his 12-year-old son, Rene. “It’s not going to be the easiest tour.”
The 1st AD headquarters staff will command and control about 30,000 U.S. troops and five Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq. The sector is roughly the size of the state of Georgia and includes several touchy areas, such as Mosul, Kirkuk, Samarra and Baqouba.
At the ceremony Thursday, a couple of hundred soldiers ceremoniously gathered on the parade field at Wiesbaden Army Airfield. Each wore a flak jacket and Kevlar helmet, objects they will see a lot of over the next 15 months. Officials also cased the division’s colors, which won’t be unfurled until they get downrange and assume command.
On hand for the formal ceremony was Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, the 1st AD commander, and Lt. Gen. Kenneth W. Hunzeker, who heads up V Corps. Hunzeker characterized the upcoming deployment as “a golden opportunity” for “Old Ironsides” to add to its storied past.
“While many challenges lie ahead, none are insurmountable,” Hunzeker said.
Hertling spoke of helping the Iraqis in their “search for dignity and respect” and said the mission will focus on security and bearing down on the bad guys.
A half-hour earlier, as soldiers were assembling on the parade field, Capt. Joshua Trigo, stood waiting for the ceremony to start. A military intelligence adviser, Trigo will be working and living with Iraqi soldiers. That’s been going on for more than a couple of years now, but it’ll become even more of an emphasis.
“We are sort of the exit strategy,” Trigo said.
But for now, it’s the entrance that matters.
King, who has two small children, didn’t seem all that fazed by the approaching deployment.
“I’m OK with it,” she said confidently.
There were few, if any, tears Thursday. The day, instead, was a day to relax and visit and enjoy one another’s company. The buses that will take the soldiers away will come soon enough.
“The families are ready,” said Brig. Gen. James C. Boozer, deputy commander for 1st AD. “They are about as ready as they are going to get.”