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A familiar pain. Signal Corps soldiers deploy, leaving family and friends behind
Sierra Vista Herald ^ | Bill Hess

Posted on 05/02/2014 6:52:48 AM PDT by SandRat

FORT HUACHUCA — Again it was a farewell ceremony for deploying Signal Corps soldiers, a representative group of Americans of different races, faiths and marital status, including at least one same-sex couple.

A company-sized group — about 100 — were at the post’s Murr Community Center Thursday morning, some with family members, some without.

The 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. David Thomas, told them the battalion and its Company A, have trained for deployment and are ready to go.

“You guys are really ready to deploy,” Thomas said, using the word “guys” for all the soldiers — men and women — of the company who are heading to Afghanistan.

A larger group is scheduled to depart Sunday and once the battalion uncases its flag in Kuwait, where its headquarters will be, the soldiers will go to other areas to include Jordan, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

“When you get to Afghanistan please take care of the soldiers to the left and right of you. You are not going to a friendly place,” Thomas said.

Mona Rivera, a military and family life counselor, reminded the families who have soldiers deploying they will be able to receive help whenever needed.

After the speeches were made and a prayer said, those waiting to board one of several buses for Libby Army Airfield on post for an afternoon flight — the plane departed at 4:13 p.m. — had nearly two hours to spend with their families and friends.

Kids ran around, some carrying stuffed toys, which were handed out at the event.

Smaller infants were held closely by a departing parent, like Pvt. Nicholas Porter who caressed, kissed and rocked his 1-month-old daughter Milah.

A quartet of single soldiers played cards, others were on computers, playing video games or talking on cell phones.

First for one, fourth for another

For 1st Lt. Ari Merdler, this will be his first deployment, but for Sgt. 1st Class Randall Walker, it is the fourth, all of which have been to Afghanistan.

Sitting next to each other, Merdler, the 1st Platoon Leader, and Walker, the company’s operations noncommissioned-officer-in-charge, talked about the deployment.

Walker will not be leaving until later this month going with a small group for his fourth time in Afghanistan since 2009.

The NCO has been in some bad installations in Afghanistan including one called Salerno, which was nearly overrun by the Taliban a year after he left.

But, when he was there “we got attacked every day,” he said, adding that was bad enough.

One of his deployments was actually a two-in-one, lasting 21 months, he said.

At another installation, called Camp Phoenix, the 43-year-old Walker said, attacks on the installation also were plentiful.

He is married and has several children from his first and second marriages. His family is not with him at the Arizona post but reside in California. When he returns from this deployment Walker said he plans to retire from the Army.

For 29-year-old Merdler, he is going to seek wise advice all junior officers receive when they, “listen to NCOs.”

Soldiers know what they are to do and good leadership is to let them do it, he said.

As for his initial deployment to a combat area, Merdler said, “I’m going in with my eyes wide open.”

Both he and Walker said the pre-deployment training the battalion received on the fort, which not only included weapons and convoying it was job-oriented as well and included field exercises such as using the terrain between the post and Douglas to set up links, as would be done when deployed, Walker said.

He told the lieutenant the company “has a lot of brand new soldiers … we’ll see how the training will come in.”

Deploying part of wearing a uniform

While deployment is nearly a constant in today’s Army, Merdler said those who become soldiers know it will be part of their lives.

“Anyone who wears the uniform should want to go,” to deploy, he said.

But unlike previous deployments, usually those 12 months or longer when soldiers were given a two-week R&R to come back home for a break there will be no such two-week break, which actually was closer to three weeks with travel to and from United States.

For Pfc. Allison Gardner this will be the first separation from her wife, Nikkia, and their 4-year-old daughter Addison.

The same-sex couple, who both hail from West — “By God” — Virginia were legally married in Washington, D.C., giving them federal protection rights because of Allison being a soldier.

The soldier, who is a transmission systems operator and maintainer, said the military accepts same sex partners and she and Nikkia are doing what any other couple does by seeking a happy married life.

Addison is Nikkia’s biological mother, who has been adopted by Allison.

While the soldier is deployed, Nikkia and Addison will go back to West Virginia where both of their families live..

Nikkia is a teacher and was employed at one of the elementary schools on the fort.

The soldier’s father and sister came to Arizona to see her off at the Thursday morning event in the Murr Community Center.

Allison, who has been in the Army for two years, said she is just a person who wants to serve the country and she, Nikkia and Addison, “have the support of our families.”

Then it was time for the departing soldiers to answer the call to board the busses to the airfield.

It was then tears started to flow from nearly everyone, hardly anyone was immune.

Hugs and kisses mixed with the emotional moisture flowing from eyes, the don’t go looks from families and friends, answered by the we don’t want to go from the departing soldiers were common place.

The soldiers went into a special room in the community center, picked up some equipment and with family and friends watching outdoors marched out in a single file through a cordon of American flags held by Patriot Guard riders and other bikers.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; US: Arizona; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: afghanistan; deployment
photos at source
1 posted on 05/02/2014 6:52:49 AM PDT by SandRat
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To: SandRat

One of my sons spent five years with the Fort WeGotcha Signal Corps and did 13 months to Afghanistan with them.

This is a difficult deal as they are split up and sent in ones, twos and threes to which ever spots they are needed. My son did not see his CO until his deployment was 90% completed.

2 posted on 05/02/2014 7:22:26 AM PDT by KC Burke (Officially since Memorial Day they are the Gimmie-crat Party.ha)
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To: SandRat

Well so long as the same sex couple are happy.

3 posted on 05/02/2014 8:31:02 AM PDT by Patriot365
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To: Patriot365
Well so long as the same sex couple are happy.

As long as the dipshits on FR making asinine comments about the military are happy.

4 posted on 05/02/2014 1:08:35 PM PDT by Future Snake Eater (
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