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2nd BCT starts deployment
Families gather to say goodbye
2nd HBCT deploys 006
Soldiers stand for a roll call before being issued weapons Tuesday as the 2nd Brigade prepared to deploy. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
About 400 soldiers from Headquarters Headquarters Company, 26th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team bid family and friends a final farewell Tuesday before deploying to Iraq for the next 12 months. This is the brigade’s fourth deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade hugged and kissed children, spouses, parents and grandparents before boarding buses to Hunter Army Airfield where they caught a plane to Kuwait, the first leg of the brigade’s deployment.
“This (process) is what we call ‘command and control,’” said Col. Mike Jason, company operations officer.
Jason said during command and control, soldiers are issued the guns they will live with throughout their deployment. They’ll be required to wear their helmets and vests and will stand for numerous roll calls.
“We’ll have three to four flights a day for six to seven days,” he said. “Everybody goes to Kuwait first. Our soldiers get acclimated and receive more training there. Then everything goes north; it’s all about planes, trains and automobiles.”
Jason said Army vehicles will receive extra armor in Kuwait before heading to Iraq.
The colonel said he also will deploy later this week once 51 percent of the force is deployed.
While some soldiers waited in line to receive their weapons, others checked and rechecked duffel bags, chatted with friends and relatives, comforted small children and made last-minute phone calls.
“Of course I’m stressed to leave the kids and not be there on a day-to-day basis,” said Master Sgt. Brenda Windham, mother of two boys. “But, I’m ready to go over there and do what I’ve got to do.”
“We’re about as ready as you can be,” said Army spouse Michelle Bayley. “This kind of feels surreal.”
Bayley and her 13-year old daughter, Meagan, were saying goodbye to husband and dad, Spc. Chad Bayley.
“There’s never enough time (before deploying),” Spc. Bayley said. “This is my first deployment with the Army.”
Bayley formerly served in the Navy. He and his wife have six children and two grandchildren. The couple’s grown son, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Rusk, 24, just returned from his second tour of Afghanistan.
“He’s now assigned to Guam,” Michelle Bayley said. “He may be getting a visit from mom before too long.”
Brandy Hitchcock of Richmond Hill held her three young children while her husband, Capt. Jonathan Hitchcock, tightened the straps on a backpack.
“This is my husband’s second deployment,” Hitchcock said.
The young mother said she will have much to do while her husband serves overseas.
“They (children) keep me pretty busy,” she said. “They’re all in sports.”
Hitchcock said she intends to become involved in family activities on post as well.
“We always get letters from the FRG (family readiness group),” she said.
Sgt. Timothy Cooper’s father, Richard Cooper, and grandparents, Marvin and Linda Cooper, traveled from Calhoun to see him off. Cooper said his family, which includes his wife and son, are good about staying in touch with him.
“Granny is real good about sending letters,” he said. “She writes about six or seven pages a letter. So, I’ll know what’s going on here at all times.”
Cooper is deploying for the third time, but this is the first opportunity his father and grandparents have had to see him off.
“We’ll also send him care packages,” Linda Cooper promised, smiling at her grandson.
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