Local Guardsmen say goodbye (Soldier415's unit)
Soldier415's Unit is finaly leaving for Afghanistan
Fred Coglizer held his 5-month-old daughter, Eva Rose, in his arms Sunday morning in a crowded armory building and gently kissed her fuzzy forehead.
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More than a year will likely pass before the 34-year-old National Guardsman from Sonoma will be able to enjoy such a treasured moment again.
Dressed in his combat fatigues and surrounded by his wife, Karina, 26, and nephew, Josh, 10, Coglizer could only state the obvious about his impending deployment to Afghanistan.
“The timing is not optimal,” he said.
Coglizer is one of about 100 citizen soldiers from the Petaluma-based 235th Engineer Company who, after some additional training, are heading to Afghanistan in January for a one-year tour of duty. They will be clearing roads of deadly explosives.
Having completed about two months of training at Camp Roberts near Paso Robles, the soldiers enjoyed Thanksgiving with their families and will leave early Tuesday for more intensive training at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Miss.
That made Sunday one of the last times many would see their loved ones before deployment. Few openly discussed their fears of the mission or feelings about being separated from their families for so long.
That separation will be particularly tough on Sam Forseth of Redding, whose wife, Kimberley, 21, is six months pregnant with their first child.
As they chatted beside an armored Humvee like the one he will soon ride into combat as a gunner, Forseth at first said it’s possible he could be granted an emergency leave to return home for his daughter’s birth, due April 1. But he added that there’s no real way to know whether it would be approved.
“When you’re half-way around the world in a combat zone, you never can tell,” said Forseth, a construction worker who, because of the slow economy, says he does more fishing than construction these days.
But Kimberley Forseth kept the mood light, saying she has strong family support and kidding her husband about his absence during their child’s birth.
“You probably wanted to miss that part anyway,” she said.
The morning ceremony entailed plenty of speeches by National Guard officers, who thanked the soldiers for their service, reassured them of the quality of their training, and honored their families for their sacrifice.
“It’s unbelievable to see this company come together the way it has,” said Capt. Cory Marks, commanding officer of the company, which includes about 40 men from the North Bay. “Remember, the victor gets to write history, so let’s go make some history.”
The soldiers, standing at attention as their families looked on, responded in unison with a mighty “Hooah!”
The ceremony was as much for the families as it was for the soldiers. Speakers heaped praise on the families for their support.
“That support makes our soldiers more proficient, and a proficient soldier is a safer soldier,” said Col. Charlotte Miller.
Perhaps because of the presence of so many family members, including young children, only passing reference was made to the dangers the 235th has faced before and is about to face again.
This is the second wartime deployment for the company, which sent about 90 men to Iraq in 2004-05 and sustained more casualties — three dead and about 20 wounded — than any other California National Guard unit at the time.
“The losses and the injuries were far too many, to be sure,” Miller said.
But Brig. Gen. Donald Currier reassured the men and their families that the training they have received should serve them well and, if they remain vigilant, keep them safe.
He also dramatically drove home the point about the importance of the mission the 235th is undertaking.
On a recent visit to Afghanistan, Currier said his convoy was stopped along a road by a group of “sappers,” the term for U.S. soldiers who keep roads free of explosives, such as improvised explosives that are a constant threat in the country.
The soldiers told the convoy they had found a fishing line strung across the roadway attached to an IED, and if the convoy had been passing 5 minutes earlier, it would have been hit.
“You guys are doing some really, really important stuff, and you’ll be saving lives every day by the work that you’ll be doing,” Currier said.
Most soldiers were generally aware that the situation in Afghanistan has become more violent, but how the election of a new president might change their mission or outcome was something most said was simply speculation beyond their pay grade.
“I just do what I’m told,” said Thomas Delzell, a 29-year-old mechanic from San Jose. “I don’t pay attention to politics.”
Even the best-informed members of the military don’t know how strategy in Afghanistan may change in the coming months, Currier said.
The Bush administration has made a commitment to strengthening troop presence there in response to an emboldened Taliban, and President-elect Barack Obama has said he wants to leave Iraq and focus on winning in Afghanistan.
But what that means for these soldiers is far from clear, Currier said. The ultimate goal in Afghanistan is similar to that of Iraq — improve security so the government can serve its people and remove the incentive to resort to terrorism, Currier said.
“The question is not, ‘Can be we beat these guys into submission?’ The question is, “Can we help these guys get on their feet?’” he said.
Originally Posted by Soldier415
If you come to my house at 8am to give me pamphlets, I will poop on your shoes.
Originally Posted by ar15barrels
Not everyone is so smart.
We need people who work at McDonalds too you know...