By Maureen RoseMay 7, 2009
Col. Richard Kaiser, the commander of the 20th Engineer Brigade, headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C. was the featured speaker at the deployment ceremony for Fort Knox's 19th Engineer Battalion Friday at Sadowski Field House.
As the colors were cased in preparation for the battalion's imminent departure for a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Kaiser told the audience, "I could stand here and tell you that these are real American heroes, but you already know that."
He reminded the audience why the battalion had to deploy again, even though the unit had returned to its Fort Knox headquarters from an Iraqi tour approximately 18 months ago.
Many Americans seem to have forgotten the events of 9-11, Kaiser said. Slowly, the horrors of that the day have been replaced by the sagging economy, confusing stimulus packages, and job losses. The lives lost at the Pentagon, on the Pennsylvania countryside, and in the World Trade Center in New York have been relegated to a distant and murky memory.
He told the audience that Soldiers have clear motives for their deployments; they are fighting so their children will grow up in the sunshine of freedom instead of the gloom of fear. Freedom, of course, is not free, Kaiser said.
In addition, the brigade commander said that freedom has a price that will be paid by Soldiers and their families; it includes stress, anxiety, frustration, maybe grief, and sometimes incredible heartbreak. However, the family readiness group and rear detachment personnel can be a source of comfort, and Kaiser assured the family members that the Fort Knox command is a solid rock of support. By using those tools, he added, some of the frustration and misunderstandings could be minimized.
Klein said the third reason Soldiers fight is that -- contrary to popular culture -- service to others is better than service to self. Afghanistan has suffered through more than three decades of war. Anything the "bridle and reins" Soldiers can do for that country will be appreciated, he pointed out.
Furthermore, Klein said all of those things will leave an indelible mark of satisfaction on the Soldiers. The next chapter of the 19th Engineer Battalion's history will be written on the snowy mountains and dusty deserts of Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Heath Roscoe, the commander of the 19th Engineers, thanked the large crowd which turned out to send off the Soldiers. He also recognized a group of distinguished guests, the 19th Engineers of the Vietnam era who were responsible for 14 of the battle streamers on the unit's guidon.
According to Roscoe, the battalion has trained for its deployment in record time -- 90 days instead of the usual six months. However, he assured the audience that the Seahorse Battalion is well trained and well led.
The 19th was inactivated in 1997 but reactivated in 2005 at Fort Knox.