As the strains of the daily playing of “Retreat” faded across the Hunter Army Airfield tarmac, dozens of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers began heading for duty overseas.
Soldiers of A Company, 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, part of the 3rd Infantry Division’s Sustainment Brigade, boarded a 747 Friday afternoon going to the Middle East. Once there, the soldiers and their varied specialties will be headed to different areas under the Central Command’s umbrella for a nine-month deployment.
The company won’t be serving intact as a unit once it arrives in the Middle East. Its soldiers where go where their skills, ranging from fuel supply to water purification to warehouse specialists, are needed.
Many of the soldiers carried along comfort items or items from their loved ones, along with their packs and weapons – including 1st Sgt. Thomeka McCormick, a veteran of overseas deployments, with a build-a-bear from her 7-year-old daughter.
McCormick acknowledged such deployments are not easy, even with a few under a soldier’s belt.
“No, but we’ve gotten used to it and she understands and she supports it,” McCormick said.
Alpha Company had a deployment to the Middle East two years ago and they have been focusing on readiness and training since their return, 87th DSSB commander Lt. Col. John Daniels said.
“Soldiers are ready and excited about the opportunity to go once again to the Central Command theater of operations,” he said. “My sergeant major and I are proud of everything Alpha Company has done.”
The company has been training for this deployment since it was put on notice that it was headed to the Middle East.
“We have done a lot of training,” said company commander Capt. David Predmore. “We have been training for this since August. We have been to the field four times, so we’re ready to go.”
The water purification teams have been busy getting in their work at Fort Stewart’s dozens of ponds to hone their skills, and the warehouse personnel already run a warehouse that serves the entire 3rd ID, “so they are well-trained in warehouse operations,” Capt. Predmore said.
“They are more than capable of going and being successful with this mission we have been given for this deployment,” added 1st Sgt. McCormick. “I have no doubt in mind they are going to do what they can do, do it to the best of their ability and be successful at it. “
While there is always danger inherent with a deployment to areas where hostile action is taking place, Capt. Predmore said his troops won’t be on the front lines in the fights against ISIS holdouts.
“We’re not kicking in doors,” he said.
As company first sergeant, it was McCormick’s duty to bellow out the name of each soldier, about 160 in all, getting on a 747 Friday afternoon.
For the soldiers headed overseas for the first time, 1st Sgt. McCormick offered them advice on the nine months ahead.
“The primary thing I want them to keep in mind is we are coming home,” she said. “It will be a challenge in the beginning, but we will get through it.”