FORT BENNING GA - As unit colors were cased, the Infantry Center Band played and Fort Benning bid a temporary farewell to one of its units.

More than 350 Soldiers deploying to Iraq with the 14th Combat Support Hospital were given an official send-off during a deployment ceremony July 2 at Freedom Hall. The unit, most of whose personnel departed Sunday and Tuesday, will serve a 12-month tour in three locations in Iraq, where it will provide health care to detainees.

This will not be the first time the 14th CSH has deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism. In January 2006, the unit deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom VII, where it supported Combined Joint Task Force 76 and the International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan.

Although about 147 of the Soldiers deploying with 14th CSH came to the unit from installations around the world less than three weeks before deployment, COL Judith Lee, commander, said she is confident her unit is prepared.

"There's been a lot of activity in the past 20 days to make sure we're 100 percent prepared," she said. "We took (the new personnel) through theater-specific training, and we're 100-percent qualified on our weapons."

The detainees her unit works with will receive the same standard of care as American Soldiers, Lee said.

"How we treat the detainees absolutely affects what kind of person they will be once they are released, and that affects our Soldiers on the ground," she said. "When they go back out to their communities in Iraq, they'll realize Americans are good people."

MG Michael Ferriter, commanding general of the U.S. Army Infantry Center and Fort Benning, told the 14th CSH Soldiers they would play an important role in establishing a stronger relationship with Iraqis.

"Iraq seems like a large country, and you may wonder if you will make a difference there," he said. "I say 'Yes' - you will make a big difference. (The Iraqis) will see what right looks like when they look at you. You will heal their bodies and their hearts."

CPT Jessica Stone, a registered nurse whose deployment with 14th CSH is her first, said she is looking forward to working in Iraq.

"I joined the Army because I wanted to go be able to do greater things," she said. "I've got some friends who deployed and said some (Iraqis) changed their minds about
Americans after being in the hospital. That's kind of what our job is, I guess - to show them we're not bad guys."

Stone, like many Soldiers, said the hardest part of deployment would be leaving her family. Stone said she would spend her first wedding anniversary in Iraq, without her husband, who is completing a master's degree at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md.

"My husband and I are already writing letters to each other," she said. "I'm going to see if I can get the Internet set up in my room over there, and I'm going to use the phone
call and Internet centers."

Joy Row, whose husband CPT Lewis Row, last deployed in 2003, said she hoped advances in technology over the past six years would help ease their separation.

"We did a lot of e-mailing last time, but back then they were only able to get on e-mail every two or three days," Row said. "In 2003, we didn't have a lot of things like online chatting and video messenger, and I think that will make it better."

Row said keeping a positive attitude is important.
"You never want to see them go, but you don't have a choice, so you have to make it as good as possible, as positive as possible," she said. "The day-to-day stuff that seems so unimportant at the time is the kind of stuff they want to hear. It's a matter of opening up and letting them know that, yeah, this is hard, but you're doing OK."

Steven Pagotto, who drove with his three children from Reading, Pa., to support his brother, MAJ Michael Pagotto, said he is proud of his brother and all the 14th CSH Soldiers.

"We really appreciate all these men and women who go over there and do the jobs that have to be done to let us have the freedoms we have here at home," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16