Strykers loaded up, begin journey to Iraq

Soldiers to meet up with vehicles in August for training in Kuwait before going to Iraq

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 12, 2007

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Less than a year after arriving in Germany, the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment already is on its way out of town.

Last weekend, Cav soldiers began loading the more than 300 Stryker armored personnel carriers onto trains at Grafenwöhr for the long land and sea journey to Kuwait. Final destination: Iraq.

On Wednesday, the movement was still in progress at Grafenwöhr with soldiers loading 40 Strykers from 2nd Cav’s 3rd Squadron onto trains, in a scene that is a reversal of the Strykers’ arrival in Vilseck in late July 2006.

Maj. Jon Pendell, 2nd Cav spokesman, said transport of the eight-wheeled vehicles is the first phase in the unit’s deployment.

“This is the first time we have deployed Strykers out of Europe. We had our test run when we came here. Now we are pushing the Strykers out to a combat zone,” he said.

In August, soldiers from the regiment will join the vehicles in the desert and begin the last phase of training for deployment to Iraq, he said. One of the soldiers helping load the Strykers — Sgt. Travis Bettinger, 27, of Toledo, Ohio — appeared eager to get to Iraq as soon as possible.

“It’s time to go do the job. We’ve been training long enough,” he said, adding that he expected the deployment. “I got here in August last year, and I thought we would be leaving sooner.”

Stryker driver Pfc. James Jones, 19, of Hopkinsville, Ky., was busy driving Strykers onto freight cars on Wednesday. Jones, who joined the Army in 2005, will be on his first trip downrange.

“I know I’m prepared for the worst, and I’m looking forward to it just to say I’ve done it,” he said.

The hardest part of the deployment will be separation from his wife, who works at the Vilseck Burger King.

“She’s going to be here in Germany. She’s getting a lot of support but she’s is still worried about me,” Jones said.

Another soldier helping load the Strykers — Pfc. Steven Grim, 21, of Erie, Pa. — is also leaving a young wife behind.

Grim said he met his German wife shortly after arriving here last year. The couple married in April and is expecting their first child in November.

“Hopefully I can come home on leave for the birth,” he said.

The unit, which arrived in Germany last July, is headed to Iraq.

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