On a hot July afternoon, a platoon of Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) waited for their turn at a known distance range at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
The Soldiers have been spending much of their time at Fort A.P. Hill lately as they train for a 12-month deployment to Iraq in the coming months.
Although Soldiers from The Old Guard have deployed twice in to the Horn of Africa in the past five years, this will be the first time The Old Guard has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Sgt. Stefan Johnson, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, has spent his entire Army career stationed at Fort Myer, said he is excited for the experience of the deployment. "I'm excited. I volunteered to go over here (to Company C) so that I can deploy. I have a wife and three children. I'm doing it for the experience, and for the extra money it will bring in."
Since April, the Soldiers of Company C have stopped marching in ceremonies and have been focusing solely on tactical training as they prepare for the deployment.
"We've done clearing houses during the day and the night, live fire, team and platoon movements, react to fire, a lot of shooting," said PFC Matthew Grant, a sawgunner from 1st Platoon.
Although all of the training they have been doing throughout the summer is necessary for the success of the deployment, Grant saw the room clearing training that he did with his squad as the most valuable. "To me, it seems to be the most beneficial training," he said. "You learn how to move as a squad and you learn how the rest of the people in your squad move, so it seems like you're all one person."
Not only has the training been helpful in making sure the Soldiers are trained and ready for the deployment, Johnson said it also has helped the Soldiers become a stronger team. "They're loving it," he said. "Being new to the company, this last month and a half, I've been bonding more and more with my squad, and building a strong camaraderie."
With the training they have been getting, the Soldiers are confident that the deployment will be a positive experience for them.
"I'm really excited," said Grant. "I'm doing what I signed up to do."
"It's always exciting going somewhere you've never been before," said Spc. Joel Shumaker, a teamleader from 1st Platoon. "We can see a new culture and meet new people."
"I'm enjoying training them," said Johnson. "They're working hard. I have confidence in my squad, that whatever happens in Iraq we will be able to adapt and overcome."
Although the Soldiers are looking forward to the deployment, they said their loved ones are more wary of what can happen during the deployment.
"I'm excited," said Pfc. Brian Wright. "I'm married, and I have a 3-year-old and another baby due this month. Hopefully I'll be able to save some money and send my son to college some day. My wife is not quite as excited, though."
"It's going to be difficult for my wife," said Johnson. "She's going to be just one person with three babies. She's sad that I'll be leaving, but she's supportive. She's all about FRG (Family Readiness Group, a group designed to help the family members of Soldiers cope with the military lifestyle)."