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Raiders head to Iraq
1st BCT's fourth tour will last 12 months
1st brigade 4
Troops of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, loads trucks before boarding buses for Hunter Army Airfield on Wednesday as part of the brigade’s deployment. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
The long wait is over. For the fourth time, the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division has deployed to Iraq after many months of preparation and training.
The Raiders gathered with spouses, children and friends to say goodbye this week before boarding buses to Hunter Army Airfield. From there, the troops board planes to Kuwait, their only stop before they arrive in Iraq.
Jokes were told to relieve the tension before soldiers and their loved ones shared a few last hugs to tide them during for the next 12 months.
“I’m ready to get there and get it done,” said Spc. Travis Manship, father of two. This deployment is Manship’s third in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is attached to the 1-41 Field Artillery.
Amber Manship, his wife, said their 7-year-old son wants to be just like his father and insisted on wearing his own uniform to see his dad off.
“We had to go to the PX today and get him a new (set of fatigues),” she said. “We tried one on and he wouldn’t take it off. We ended up letting him wear it out of the store.”
Amber Manship said her family celebrated Christmas a week early with her parents in Jacksonville.
“We put in a request for Santa to visit early just for us and he did,” she said with a nod toward her children. “The kids were so excited. They said, ‘Santa listened to us!’”
Pfc. Gabriel Howard said his goodbyes days earlier. His wife and 1-year old daughter moved back to Washington state so his wife could have the support of her parents during the deployment.
Howard, too, is ready to get on with the brigade’s advise and assist mission, but admits he will miss seeing his daughter grow from an infant into a toddler.
Spc. Steven Edwards and his fiancé plan to marry about six months after he returns from Iraq. During that time Edwards’ sweetheart will finish her bachelor’s degree at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
“I’m strangely comfortable with it,” Edwards said of the deployment. “It’s my job.” This deployment is his second in support of OIF.
Edwards, a communications officer, said computer technology will help keep him connected to his fiancé and family back home.
Pfc. Brian Wester kidded around with some of the younger soldiers, while his three children ran off some pent-up energy.
“I’m just anxious to get on the plane,” he said.
The 1st Brigade soldier with the 1-41 Field Artillery said he comes from a military family. His sister-in-law now stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., and his brother-in-law, who is also in the Army, will soon depart for Iraq as well.
“And I have another brother-in-law who will be going to the recruiting office next week,” he said.
Wester said his three children pitched in to buy him a Christmas gift before he deployed.
“It was mostly (my money),” quipped Wester’s 11-year old son Morgan.
Wester and his wife, Shiloh, also have two daughters, Courtney, 10, and Sierra, 6. Although the Westers consider Sacramento, Calif., their home town, Shiloh Wester and her children will weather the 1st Brigade’s deployment in Hinesville.
“I think (deployment) is easier for me being single,” said Pfc. Justin Cothern. “I’m the only one I’ve got to worry about.”
Cothern admitted his mother will worry for his safety, but his father, who is retired from the Navy, understands his son’s career choice.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” Cothern said. “I have a little brother — he’s 17 — and he’s looking into joining the Army. He’s really proud of me.”
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