• Specialist Rafael Gonzalez, a mechanic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, says his goodbyes to his wife Maria and their 5-month-old daughter, Scarlett, before the unit's deployment to Iraq, July 5.

    Families say good bye to Vanguard Soldiers

    Specialist Rafael Gonzalez, a mechanic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, says his goodbyes to his wife Maria and their 5-month-old daughter, Scarlett, before the unit's...

  • Specialist John Frost, a mechanic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, spends some father-son time with his son Dalton before the unit's deployment to Iraq, July 5. Approximately 3,300 4th IIBCT Soldiers left Fort Stewart for various locations within the al Anbar Province for a yearlong deployment, June 26-July 13.

    Vanguard Soldiers leave for Iraq

    Specialist John Frost, a mechanic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, spends some father-son time with his son Dalton before the unit's deployment to Iraq, July 5...

<b>FORT STEWART, Ga.</b> - More than 3,000 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers left Fort Stewart June 26-July 13 for various locations within the al Anbar Province. It is there that these light-infantry troops will come together and conduct an "advise and assist" mission, supporting the Government of Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces.

Though the Vanguard Brigade is on its third rotation to Iraq and several of its Soldiers have experienced multiple deployments, separating from Family Members doesn't get easier.

"It's not easy, but I have to be strong for our two children," said Crystal Allen, wife of Spc. Mark Allen, a mechanic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion. "We have been married three years and this is my husband's second time to deploy to Iraq."

Several Soldiers expressed that they were anxious to go so that they could do what they were trained for.

"I am ready to go. This is my second deployment to Iraq and I am anxious to perform the mission I have been trained to do," said Sergeant Michael Goddard, a weapons intelligence team leader assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. Citing the draw-down of U.S. troops in Iraq, he added, "Sounds like this may be our last if not close to the last deployment to Iraq for us."

While many were saddened to see their Soldiers head off to war, some understood, even if it was for a second time.

"You know how moms are," said Private Decona Burke, a weapons intelligence team member assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. "She hates to see me go but understand that I have a job to do. My first deployment was to Afghanistan, so I am curious to see Iraq."

Off in the distance, you could hear a sergeant barking orders for a formation to begin. In the not so far distance, Family Members watched as their loved ones received their deployment packets before making their way in single-file formation into the arms room.

Family Members waited to say their final goodbyes as their loved ones emerged from the arms room with their tools of the trade in hand. Soon, the somber moment changed as tears were wiped away and hugs and kisses flowed; a strong sense of pride could be felt among Soldiers and their loved ones.

For first-time deployers, there is mixed emotions of leaving Family behind and being deployed for the first time.

"I am excited to go on the deployment; this will be my first (one)," said Specialist Rafael Gonzalez, a mechanic assigned to HHC, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd ID. "But, I am also sad to leave behind my wife and five-month-old daughter."

For one couple, they are just starting their Family.

"We have been married one year and one month today, and (we) have a baby on the way," said Amelia Alcantara, wife of Spc. Erick Alcantara, a mechanic assigned to HHC, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion. "We are going to try and keep in touch as much as possible through Facebook and Skype."

Soon, it was time to leave, and the Soldiers picked up their bags, after stealing a few more last second hugs and kisses, and made their way to the busses.

Regardless of how many times everyone has deployed or what their situation may be, the one common denominator that all the Families appear to share is that they are all hoping for a safe deployment and that their loved ones return home soon.

Page last updated Thu July 15th, 2010 at 15:31