'Torch' element departs for Iraq
January 7, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Early morning Sunday, 25 Sky Dragon troopers mustered for the manifest that will carry them from Fort Bragg to duty stations in Kuwait and Iraq as the command group's first boots forward in its deployment to Operation New Dawn.
Although some Soldiers have gone downrange beginning in August 2010, this movement represents the tipping point as the battalion's weight shifts from preparing to deploy to the actual deployment, said Lt. Col. Peter S. Im, the commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion.
The torch element has a two-fold mission, he said. "One is to put a command and control capability in place. Number two is to be prepared to receive everybody else as we come in."
The next group will be the advon or advance party for the XVIII Airborne Corps that will serve the same function for the wider staff of the command group, which will be relieving the III Corps command group, Im said. "Then, there will be three main bodies who will come in after that."
For practical and symbolic reasons, Im said he cased his colors and sent them forward with Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Gomez.
One of the Soldiers leaving, Sgt. Samuel J. Castor, a native of Allentown, Pa., said he was leaving for his third deployment to Iraq on his fourth wedding anniversary.
Castro said during the Christmas holidays he and his wife Shantelle and his three children, Seveah, 1; Savyanna, 2 and Samuel Jr., 3, concentrated on spending time on activities such as skating and bowling.
"Instead of taking them to daycare every day, I let them stay home, so we could spend more time together," he said.
Castro's wife, who is from New Orleans, said the couple took advantage of lessons they learned from their last deployment. "We got on our finances, our bills and priorities."
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew C. Nelson said his wife Sgt. Tobi D. Nelson will be joining him in one of the future chalks.
Nelson said the couple had a combined five combat tours, but this is the first time they are going overseas together.
Dressed in street clothes, Tobi said she was there as a wife as she helped her husband put name tags on his luggage and held on to his paperwork.
While they are at Camp Victory, the couple will be worried about their loved ones left behind: two dogs, two horses and four cats, she said.
The colors were cased at a short ceremony in from of the battalion headquarters with the deploying troopers in formation. In addition to the casing, the battalion commander and command sergeant presented each Soldier with the U.S. Forces-Iraq sleeve patch for their left sleeve. The patch on the left side signifies a Soldier's current assigned unit.
For "slick sleeved" Soldiers, Im took the corps' "Dragon" patch off from the Soldier's left sleeve and placed it on the right sleeve, where is became the officially the "right-sleeve insignia" or a "combat patch."
Afterwards, speaking to the Families, friends and comrades observing the ceremony, Gomez said the patch on the right sleeve belongs to the unit with which a Soldier deployed to a combat zone. "For Soldiers with multiple deployments, they will choose the patch they feel the most sentimental about."
Then, the battalion's top noncommissioned officer removed the "All-American" patch of the 82nd Airborne Division from his right sleeve and replaced it with the Dragon patch. "Now, I am wearing this patch. This is going to be a historic deployment and this is the last corps patch they're going to see."
When the command sergeant major was finished, the colonel called the formation to attention: "On my command fall out and fall in with your Families and enjoy the time."
Thirty minutes later, the loaded bus pulled out of the parking lot.