Subscribe
A soldier makes a phone call before boarding a plane for Kuwait Wednesday night at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

A soldier makes a phone call before boarding a plane for Kuwait Wednesday night at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. (Joe Gromelski / Stripes)

A soldier makes a phone call before boarding a plane for Kuwait Wednesday night at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

A soldier makes a phone call before boarding a plane for Kuwait Wednesday night at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. (Joe Gromelski / Stripes)

Spc. Justin Conner of HHC, 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, says goodbye to his wife, Danielle.

Spc. Justin Conner of HHC, 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, says goodbye to his wife, Danielle. (Joe Gromelski / Stripes)

(Joe Gromelski / Stripes)

Soldiers line up to board the plane.

Soldiers line up to board the plane. (Joe Gromelski / Stripes)

(Joe Gromelski / Stripes)

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. – Several hundred members of the North Carolina Army National Guard’s 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team left Pope Air Force Base for Iraq on Wednesday. More than 3,000 other soldiers will follow over the next two weeks.

Vietnam veteran Dennis Ables, of Holly Springs, N.C., was at Pope to see his son, Dennis Ables Jr., with the brigade’s 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, embark on a second Iraq tour.

“It doesn’t get any easier, but I back him 100 percent,” he said.

Ables believes his son is well prepared for this deployment.

“I’d say they have more training now than (I did) before I went to Vietnam,” said Ables, who served with the 9th Infantry Division in 1967 and 1968.

While many of the 100 or so family members who came to see their soldiers depart were confident in the brigade’s abilities, the emotion of saying goodbye was palpable throughout the passenger building at Pope’s “Green Ramp.”

“You can’t be prepared to have somebody ripped out of your life for a year,” said a tearful Danielle Conner, surrounded by her young daughters.

Her husband, Spc. Justin Conner, a former Marine now with HHC, 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, is deploying for the first time as a husband and father.

The brigade, descended from the 30th Infantry Division in World Wars I and II, is the first in the National Guard to conduct combat operations twice in the same conflict. It comprises units based in North Carolina, West Virginia and Colorado, and has soldiers from many other states.

The brigade previously deployed to Iraq in 2004 and early 2005.

After some final training and acclimatization in Kuwait, the unit will begin operations in Iraq for up to a year.

Thomas M. Ruyle, now a Stripes copy editor, served in Iraq with the 30th HBCT as an Army National Guard soldier for 10 months in 2004.

See more photos from the North Carolina Army National Guard’s 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team's departure for the Middle East here.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up