Soldiers of 97th Transportation Company deploy for Iraq duty
Soldiers of the 97th Trans. Co. stand fast during the playing of the U.S. Army Song at the conclusion of the deployment ceremony June 10 at Jacobs Theater on Fort Eustis. The unit deployed for a 12-month tour of duty in Iraq to conduct cargo transport operations to and from port facilities in the Persian Gulf.

FORT EUSTIS, Va. (June 17, 2009) -- Soldiers of the 97th Transportation Company, 10th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade said goodbye to friends and loved ones in a deployment ceremony June 10 at Jacobs Theater, Fort Eustis.

About 35 Soldiers departed for a 12-month tour of duty in the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While deployed, the Soldiers will provide support for landing craft utility vessel operations.

Before and after the ceremony, Soldiers spent the time posing for pictures and holding their loved ones.

Sgt. Samantha Paciencia is leaving her sons, Hayden, 2, and Riley, 9 months, for the first time. Although she is excited about the mission, she is anxious and sad to be leaving her two little ones.

"It makes me a little sad 'cause they're going to grow up so much without me in the next year," she said. "But they'll be with my parents and that's okay," she added.

Pacienca's deployment, however, is not the first for her family. Dad, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Stanley Wood, has also served in his share of deployments as has one of her sisters who is also in the Army.

"Her sister went as an MP (military police) in Baghdad and I was worried, but I feel a little better about her [Paciencia]," Wood said. Gesturing to Riley, Wood spoke of his daughter's separation from her sons and the ways the family would keep Paciencia updated on the boys during the 12-month separation.

"Riley probably won't remember her but Hayden will. We're going to use Skype to keep things going, though," Wood added.

Melinda Darling, wife of detachment commander Chief Warrant Officer Kyle Darling, and the couple's two daughters are used to her husband's comings and goings, but this is the first year- long separation for the family.

"While he's gone I'll pretty much concentrate on the girls. They've got their sports and so it'll be all about them," Darling said.

Most of the departing Soldiers have served in the Middle East at least two times, and five Soldiers are deploying for the first time. Many of the Soldiers volunteered for the deployment, even though less than a year has passed since their return from an eight-month tour of duty conducting cargo operations with U.S. Army Southern Command in the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Given the demands of the 97th and its missions, Company Commander Capt. Josh Nichols credits not only the Soldiers' strength, work ethics and commitment to service, but the support of the family members and spouses left back on the homefront.

Holding his hand to his heart, Nichols said, "To the spouses, I want to thank you for everything you do. What you do allows our Soldiers to do what they do."

While in Iraq, the Soldiers will provide naval operations support in the Persian Gulf, utilizing utility landing craft for cargo transport to and from port facilities.

Page last updated Wed June 17th, 2009 at 15:48