Troops Leave for Middle East

 

Written by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Published January 12, 2004

   
Soldiers and family members load the busses and say last goodbyes before the soldiers leave for deployment.
U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Scott Faddis

Soldiers and family members load the busses and say last goodbyes before the soldiers leave for deployment.
The last week of 2003 and the first week of 2004 were very busy for some members of the Utah National Guard. Approximately 500 soldiers from the 115th Engineer Group, 116th Combat Engineer Company, 1/211th Aviation Battalion, and 141st Military Intelligence Battalion spent that time making final preparations prior to departing for various duty locations in the Middle East.
    
Activities for these soldiers ranged from mobilization training, briefings and readiness assessments to some well-earned days at home on Christmas and New Year’s Day with family and friends. However, the brief time off will have to suffice because these soldiers will be deployed for the next 18 months in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

In addition to the typical mobilization activities already mentioned, the busy agenda for soldiers and families included a Yellow Ribbon Ceremony for members of the 1/211th, a family
luncheon for members of the 141
st, as well as the actual departure of each deploying unit.

On Jan. 3, a crowd of 2,500 packed the 2,000-seat auditorium at Copper Hills High School to pay tribute to the soldiers of the 1/211th. During the Yellow Ribbon ceremony, Lt. Col. Rodney Robinson, commander of the 1/211th spoke to the crowd and the soldiers that he will be commanding in Afghanistan.

“Being a United States soldier is both a curse and a blessing. The curse is that we have to leave our families to go do our duty. The blessing is that we go and do our duty overseas and we do not do it here,” said Robinson.

Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, also addressed the crowd. Tarbet told the soldiers that once they leave Utah they need to “turn around on the bus and get their heads in the game” until they return from deployment.

Sgt. Haley Jensen, flight operations NCOIC, and her mother Jane Morley share an emotional moment at the 1/211th yellow ribbon ceremony. 
U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Scott Faddis

Sgt. Haley Jensen, flight operations

 NCOIC, and her mother Jane Morley

 share an emotional moment at the

1/211th yellow ribbon ceremony. 

At the family luncheon for the 141st Military Intelligence Battalion on Jan. 4, the parents of Pfc. Jeff Allen, Steve and Marty Allen came to support their soldier. Reflecting the practical concerns of a mother for her departing son, Marty Allen said, “I just hope that they encourage him to write.”

Of course, the most difficult part of the mobilization process comes when it is finally time to say good-bye. As these 500 soldiers deploy, the sadness of separation of 500 families and loved ones is incalculable.

Chief Warrant Officer Ken Sampson, his wife Debbie and their daughter Tori,2, gather after the Yellow Ribbon Ceremony.  Sampson is an apache pilot for the 1/211th Aviation Battalion. 
U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Scott Faddis

Chief Warrant Officer Ken Sampson, his wife Debbie and their daughter Tori,2, gather after the Yellow Ribbon Ceremony.  Sampson is an apache pilot for the 1/211th Aviation Battalion. 
   



Stephanie Grimstead and her three young children made the trip to the Spanish Fork armory on a bitter cold morning at 6:00 a.m. on Jan. 4 to send off her husband, Sgt. Benjamin Grimstead, of the 116th Combat Engineer Company.

Grimstead acknowledged the difficult task of explaining to her children why their dad had to leave, but she is supportive of him and the Guard. “We’re blessed with so many things here. We enjoy our freedom and we feel that it’s important that everyone can have those same freedoms too,” she said

Pfc Jeff Allen and Erica Foss are engaged and were going to be married this March until Allen was deployed with the 141st MI BN.  Now their marriage plans are on hold until Allen returns from his deployment.
U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Scott Faddis

Pfc Jeff Allen and Erica Foss

are engaged and were going

to be married this March until

 Allen was deployed with the

141st MI BN.  Now their marriage

 plans are on hold until Allen

returns from his deployment. 

Ironically, Sgt. Grimstead volunteered for this deployment. He was offered a position in a nondeploying unit, but he opted to remain with the 116th so that he could deploy with his brother, Spc. Jordan Grimstead, also a member of the 116th.

Among the many present to say good-bye to soldiers this week were their children. Keely Hyer, the young daughter of an Apache mechanic with the 1/211th Aviation Battalion, had a hard time understanding how her dad could want to go over to Afghanistan. “He’s happy to go, but I’m kind of sad that he is going because he might get shot,” she said.

Keely’s dad, Sgt. Scott Ryan, acknowledged her concerns and tried to explain his own conflicting emotions. “I’m not sure that I am happy to go, but I am kind of glad that I am going because 9/11 weighs heavy on my mind. If I’m going anywhere, I’m glad it’s to [Afghanistan] because I know that they are directly responsible.”

Senior Utah Guard leaders also turned out to support their soldiers. Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Paxton of the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade had mixed feelings about the departure of soldiers of the 141st on Jan. 6.

“I’m a Vietnam vet, and I know what it means to leave family, plus I have a son over [in the Middle East] on a second tour. The sergeant major side of me says, ‘Go get ‘em, guys,’ but the internal instincts in me say that I’m really worried. At the same time, I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Paxton said.

Maj. Gen. Tarbet, who makes it a point to visit with as many families as possible at departure time, paused to praise the dedication of soldiers’ loved ones. “Every time I come to one of these [departures], I’m struck by what a cost it is to these families to do this. I can’t thank them enough and, frankly, I’m in awe of them.”

Although he has attended dozens of unit departures since the beginning of the war on terror, Tarbet recognizes the impact the experience has on individual soldiers, families, and him personally.

Keely Hyer, daughter of Sgt. Scott Ryan, sits and waits while the families of the 1/211th Aviation Battalion prepare for their soldiers to board the busses.  Sgt. Ryan is an apache mechanic with A Company 1/211th Aviation Battalion.
U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Scott Faddis

Keely Hyer, daughter of Sgt. Scott Ryan,

sits and waits while the families of the

 1/211th Aviation Battalion prepare for

their soldiers to board the busses. 

 Sgt. Ryan is an apache mechanic with

 A Company 1/211th Aviation Battalion.   

 “You never get used to this. Every one of them is new. Of course, for the family in question it is new. It’s their soldier. It’s D-Day for them, and I think that’s the perspective we need to keep on this,” Tarbet said.

The soldiers departing this week bring the total of Utah Guard members currently deployed to about 1,600, or one third of the total number of Guard members in the state.

At its peak in 2003, the Utah National Guard led the nation with 85 percent of its soldiers deployed at one time in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

That figure is indicative not only of the readiness of our soldiers, but also the support of their families and the citizens of our state. We wish these departing soldiers and those currently deployed a successful mission and a safe return.

This poster shows how one family plans on remembering their deployed soldier.
U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Scott Faddis

This poster shows how one

family plans on remembering

heir deployed soldier.