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Texas Guard leaves for Iraq

Troops have trained on Fort Stewart

POSTED: November 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo by Joe Parker Jr./

The 3rd Infantry Division Band plays at the ceremony Saturday morning.

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About 3,500 soldiers of the Texas National Guard got their sendoff to Iraq Saturday, honored by family and friends, generals, other soldiers and a flyover of a double-vee formation of migrating geese.
The geese appeared over Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field shortly before the ceremony, in which two battalions received meritorious unit commendations and the brigade’s colors were symbolically cased for their trip into a war zone.
Streamers, signifying commendations, were attached to the colors of the 2-142 Infantry Battalion and the 3-133 Field Artillery Battalion for previous service in Iraq. The meritorious unit commendation is equivalent to the Legion of Merit to an individual.
Maj. Gen. Michael Bednarek, commander of First Army Division East, spoke of hard work that had gone into the brigade’s train-up for its Iraq mission, “not just the leaders, but every soldier on parade here today.”
“Their mission is critical to our nation’s future and to stability around the globe,” the general said.
First Army is responsible for training and readiness of Guard, Reserve and some active forces.
Having completed training, which the general described as “excruciating at some times,” Bednarek said, “they are ready for the task. They are up to the challenge.”
He then surprised many in the audience by speaking a sentence in Arabic, which he then translated:
“They have learned their lessons well.”
Bednarek expressed thanks to many organizations and people who assisted in the Arrowhead Brigade Combat Team’s training, including 3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, who he said was downrange visiting troops in Iraq.
Turning to the families of the deploying soldiers, Bednarek admonished, “Do not be a CNN junkie.” He said families of deployed soldiers naturally wanted to keep themselves informed and that they could do so through the Army’s Family Readiness Groups.
An estimated 4,000 family members and friends came to Fort Stewart to see off the “T-patchers,” so called because of the large capital letter T worn by the Texas National Guard.
The brigade commander Col. Lee Henry said the family members and friends were the most honored guests of the day because of the sacrifices made when their soldiers went off to war.
Other guests included Maj. Gen. John Furlow, commander of the Texas Army National Guard, Maj. Gen. Jose Mayorga, commander of the Guard’s 36th Division; Brig. Gen. Eddy Spurgin of the Texas National Guard; Brig. Gen. Maria Britt, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard; Col. Tom Vandal, deputy commanding general of the 3rd ID, and Col. Todd Buchs, Fort Stewart’s garrison commander. 
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