120th Quartermaster Detachment and

 144th Area Medical Support Company Deploy for Operation Iraqi Freedom

 

Written by Maj. Hank McIntire

Published August 18, 2005

       

Utah National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet speaks to Soldiers at federalization ceremony in Springville Aug. 10.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Utah National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen.

 Brian Tarbet  speaks to Soldiers at federalization

ceremony in Springville Aug. 10.

SALT LAKE CITY — Cheers and tears accompanied the 120th Quartermaster Detachment (QM) and 144th Area Medical Support Company (AMSC) as they departed from the Salt Lake Air Base Aug. 13 for deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Approximately 15 Soldiers from the 120th and 80 from the 144th gathered early that morning with family, friends, their comrades in uniform and their leaders for a brief ceremony and to say goodbye for a season.

The mission of the Springville-based 120thQM is to provide water purification support in their assigned area of operations. The 144th AMSC, which also drills in Springville, will provide medical care in the corps area of operations which will involve emergency care at the site of injury, sick call and ambulance services.

Col. Linda Higgins, commander of 97th Troop Command, speaks to Soldiers and  families at departure ceremony Aug. 13.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Col. Linda Higgins, commander of 97th Troop Command, speaks to Soldiers and  families at departure ceremony Aug. 13.

Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet paid tribute to each unit individually at their federalization ceremony held at the Springville armory Aug. 10.

“Your unit has been mobilized three times since 1990. We appreciate very much your contribution,” Tarbet told the soldiers of the 120th.

To the 144th Tarbet said, “What you’re involved in will literally save the lives of American Soldiers.”

Tarbet added a caution for both units. “You’re going into a very dangerous situation. Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. We have faith that you’ll be back safe in our parking lot,” he said.

At the departure ceremony Col. Linda Higgins, commander of 97th Troop Command, the unit responsible for overseeing the training, equipping and staffing of the deploying units, praised Soldiers for their sacrifice.

“I’ve never been more proud to see Soldiers standing tall to answer the call,” Higgins said.

Pfc. Kellie Davis, 144th AMSC, and a family member spend a tender moment before saying goodbye.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Pfc. Kellie Davis, 144th AMSC, and a family member spend a tender moment before saying goodbye.

Sgt. 1st Class Carlyle Smith, commander of the 120th and going on his third deployment to include Desert Storm, thanked his Soldiers’ families for their support and made them a solemn promise.

“You families that are here to support these Soldiers, I can’t say anything other than thank you so very much. Without you guys out there, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Smith said. “These [Soldiers] in the 120th Quartermaster Detachment, I’d follow them anywhere. And I hope they’ll follow me. We will bring them back home.”

144th Commander 1st Lt. Robert Dent also acknowledged the support of families and expressed his thoughts to those assembled.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to us to have you come out and support us. Your sacrifices that you’re making here at home are critical to the successes that these two units will have,” Dent said, “We have a great Family Support group. Use each other to share the hard times and the good times as well. Our number-one focus is to take care of your Soldiers, to bring them home and do things as safely as possible.” 

Following the ceremony, Soldiers and families spent a precious two hours talking, laughing, hugging, and crying before it came time to board the plane. 

The Hydes and Weatherspoons, members of the 120th Quartermaster Detachmnent, speak with reporter Chris Holden Aug. 13.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

The Hydes and Weatherspoons, members of the 120th Quartermaster Detachment, speak with reporter Chris Holden Aug. 13.

Among them were three siblings and a spouse, all deploying with the 120th: Staff Sgt. Shawn Weatherspoon; his wife, Pfc. Carrie Weatherspoon; her sister Pfc. Jessica Hyde and brother Pfc. William Hyde. 

Shawn, who joined the Guard several years ago, was instrumental in bringing the other three on board.

“I was the recruiter. I told them about the benefits and their options in the Guard.” Shawn said. “I just pointed them in this direction and they made the choice. I like it; it’s good family unity.”

His wife Carrie is looking forward to deploying to Iraq for the next 12-18 months.

Sgt. 1s Class Carlyle Smith, right, and members of the 120th Quartermaster Detachment prepare to board the plane for fort. Bliss, Tex..

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Sgt. 1s Class Carlyle Smith, right, and members of the 120th Quartermaster Detachment prepare to board the plane for fort. Bliss, Tex..

“I’ve always wanted to be in the military. I’m excited to serve my country and I love to travel. This is just another stamp in my passport,” she said.

“This is giving me an opportunity to serve my country. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m proud to do it,” added sister Jessica.

Brother William credits his family’s military background as an influence on his decision to serve.

“Our whole family pretty much has been military. We’ve been raised with a military attitude. I like the fact that we’re going to do this as a family, and we can protect the freedom that everybody enjoys back home,” he said.

144th AMSC Commander 1st Lt. Robert Dent, left, greets one of his Soldiers before boarding the plane.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

144th AMSC Commander 1st Lt. Robert Dent, left, greets one of his Soldiers before boarding the plane.

Members of the 144th have equally compelling stories to tell. Several volunteered to join the unit because they had skills the unit needed.

Spc. Donald Ferguson, a communications specialist with the 1457th Engineers, opted to join the 144th when he found out they needed a communications NCO (noncommissioned officer).

This deployment will be Ferguson’s second tour in Iraq in as many years. In 2003 he was wounded in an explosion while traveling in a convoy and was awarded the Purple Heart.

With all he accomplished with the 1457th the first time around, the decorated veteran has some unfinished business in the Middle East.

“Last time I was over there I didn’t get to skinny-dip in the Persian Gulf, so I’m going to do that this time,” Ferguson joked.

A 144th AMSC Soldier says goodbye to his wife and daughter before boarding the plane bound for Fort Bliss.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

A 144th AMSC Soldier says goodbye to his wife and

daughter before boarding the plane bound for Fort Bliss.

While there was some laughter as they waited nervously for the boarding call, no one who saw the scene could fail to be moved as Soldiers held infant sons and daughters and spouses, parents, and children clutched their loved ones in uniform for the last time for many months to come.

At 8:30 a.m. all said their last goodbyes, and families moved to the edge of the flight line as Soldiers lined up in formation to board the plane, a chartered commercial flight bound for Fort Bliss, Tex.., where Soldiers will spend about three months training before heading over to the Middle East.

The 120th boarded first, trailed by Commander Smith, and the 144th’s Dent stood with Utah Guard senior leaders to shake the hand of each of his Soldiers as they passed.

Families waved and shouted encouragement to their Soldiers,  and many in uniform returned the favor and gave the thumbs-up.

Utah Air National Guard fire trucks open their water cannons in salute to the 120th and 144th as their plane departs Salt Lake Air Base.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Utah Air National Guard fire trucks open their water cannons in salute

to the 120th and 144th as their plane departs Salt Lake Air Base.

As the plane taxied toward the runway, in a fitting salute to these brave warriors, Air Guard fire trucks on either side of the plane opened up their water cannons to create a liquid arc over the aircraft.

At the same time, Guard leaders stood in formation on the tarmac and rendered their traditional hand salute in honor of the service and sacrifice these Soldiers were about to make.

When the fire hoses were turned off, a thick mist hung in the air over the plane. Then, as if on cue and to the delight of the crowd, a perfect rainbow appeared over the plane and remained for nearly a minute.

A rainbow forms over the departing plane following a water-cannon salute by Utah Air National Guard fire trucks.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

A rainbow forms over the departing plane following a

 water-cannon salute by Utah Air National Guard fire trucks.

Perhaps the spontaneous natural display was an indication of things to come for the 120th and 144th. They are well trained, equipped and ready to accomplish their mission. And families have the Family Support network to help them through.

Working as a team, Soldiers will succeed as individuals and units, and families will also rise to the challenge.

As Smith says, “We’ll get over there and do what we need to do.”

And Smith’s wife Brenda is just as determined.

"There are families [in Iraq] that need their help. And Carlyle’s a good guy and he can go help them,” she said. “I know that he’ll be okay and I’ll be okay. We’ll work together.”

 

 

Senior leaders of the Utah National Guard render their traditional salute as the aircraft departs.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Senior leaders of the Utah National Guard render

 their traditional salute as the aircraft departs.

Families and friends of Soldiers of the 120th and 144th wave to the departing plane at Salt Lake Air Base.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Families and friends of Soldiers of the 120th and 144th

wave  to the departing plane at Salt Lake Air Base.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 144th Soldier's family makes the lonely walk back to their car after the plane's departure.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

A 144th Soldier's family makes the lonely walk back

 to their car after the plane's departure.

A father shares one last hug with his son before boarding the plane for Fort Bliss.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

A father shares one last hug with his son

before boarding the plane for Fort Bliss.