Most of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s approximately 3,000 soldiers have returned home to Fort Stewart from the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif.
The soldiers now have about six weeks to spend with family and friends, and to take care of private matters before deploying to Iraq. The 2nd Brigade is expected to deploy in late October.
“Soldiers will enjoy two weeks of block leave to spend with their families,” said Maj. Stephen Holt, public affairs officer for the brigade. “This is in addition to the two weeks of leave they had the opportunity to take earlier in June. Outside of those two weeks, soldiers will have a multitude of things to do prior to leaving: packing equipment in military containers, getting privately owned vehicles put in storage, conducting qualification ranges and single soldiers packing household goods.”
Holt explained soldiers who come into the brigade after the main body has left and soldiers returning from military schools also will deploy.
Once soldiers arrive in Iraq, he said, they will train Iraqis to protect themselves and their countrymen.
“While we are deployed, our role is to advise and assist the Iraqi security forces as they take the lead in providing security,” Holt said. “The National Training Center was a great opportunity for our soldiers to work together with Iraqi role players in making joint missions successful.
He praised NTC, a 1,200-square-mile training facility in the Mojave Desert, for putting up realistic villages and hiring Iraqi role players so soldiers
will know what they are facing during the deployment, especially those who have not deployed there in the past.
The major expressed confidence in the brigade’s readiness for the mission.
“I’m confident our soldiers are ready and have received the training they need to make them successful,” he said. “I know that we are doing all we can as leaders to make sure our soldiers are prepared and ready. While we’re gone, I know their families will be well cared for here at home by family readiness support groups and the Fort Stewart community.”
Army spouse and mother Yvonne Hooker, whose husband Spc. Patrick Hooker is due to deploy, says she is prepared to hold down the home front.
“We plan on having a lot of good, quality family time before he deploys,” Yvonne Hooker said. “We plan on talking with the girls to make sure they understand the deployment.”
The Hookers have two daughters, ages 4 and 7. The young family is not new to lengthy separations.
Yvonne Hooker said her husband had a 12-month, unaccompanied hardship tour to Korea last year, and returned stateside in February. Therefore, the couple intends on celebrating family occasions before the upcoming deployment.
“We’re having our seventh wedding anniversary,” Hooker said. “So we hope to have some quality time together as a couple. Maybe go out to eat for our anniversary.”
Hooker and her daughters plan to keep busy while her husband serves his first deployment to Iraq.
“We’ll take it day-
by-day,” she said. “The girls are involved in church groups. I plan on going back to school while he’s gone. I’ll also be involved with FRG (family readiness group). We’ll try to stay busy, busy, busy.”