FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Sept. 11, 2007) - The Army's first joint debriefing and interrogation center battalion will deploy to Iraq this month after 17 months of training and preparation.

The Soldiers of the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion cased the battalion's colors Sept. 6 at MacArthur Parade Field in preparation for their departure. The colors will be unfurled upon their arrival in Iraq.

"When I scan the formation, I see mission focus, confidence, competence, determination and dedication to family in each of your faces," said 470th Military Intelligence Brigade Commander Col. Cheryl Harris at the deployment ceremony. "The road to this day has been long and arduous but the end state will be exactly what each of you expected ... success."

The battalion has been preparing for the 15-month deployment since its inception April 12, 2006, with training exercises here, at Camp Bullis and at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

"The Soldiers have proven they are ready to excel as they set the standard as the Army's first JDIC battalion - responsible for interrogation operations," Col. Harris said. "The team has been together from the genesis and it is befitting that they complete this task together."

The 201st MI Bn. is the first of four joint interrogation battalions planned for the Army; the other three will stand up in the next several years. The battalion's mission is to conduct detainee screening and interrogation missions in support of military operations throughout the world.

In Iraq, the battalion's mission will be to provide interrogation support to the commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, said Maj. Christopher Tomlinson, battalion operations officer.

Once there, "the 201st will become a joint unit to fulfill a joint mission," said Maj. Tomlinson, adding that the battalion has trained with Airmen at Fort Huachuca. Those same Airmen will join the unit in Iraq.

"We're ready," Maj. Tomlinson said. "The training has been arduous but also very satisfying."

Battalion commander, Lt. Col. John Strycula, also expressed confidence in the Soldiers under his command. "They have excelled at every task and every mission they have been given," he said. "These Soldiers are ready to deploy to Iraq and shine as both Soldiers and intelligence professionals."

As leaders expressed their confidence in the Soldiers, they also extended their appreciation to the Family members left behind. Many were in attendance at the ceremony to support their loved ones.

"Today is a bittersweet moment for the families," Col. Harris said. "Although emotional about the departure of their Soldiers, you can still see pride in their faces as they truly embrace the meaning of sacrifice by unselfishly sharing their beloved Soldier with the unit, the Army, the United States and the world."

As a symbol of their support, the Families in attendance were invited to stand beside their Soldiers on the field following the ceremony.

"This action symbolizes their critical role in the development and growth of this battalion," Lt. Col. Strycula said. "They are a vital element of this battalion and are full partners in the successes that we have achieved because none of it would be possible without their undying and unwavering support."

Along with their loved ones, the Soldiers will have another much-appreciated source of ongoing support - the city of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas. The city adopted the battalion in August, marking the occasion with an Aug. 24 celebration for the Soldiers that included horseback rides, music and a barbecue.

"We plan to stay in close contact with the commander, sergeant major and chaplain so we can find out what the Soldiers need," said E.L. Boots Gaubatz, mayor of Fair Oaks Ranch, located about 25 miles northwest of San Antonio. "We don't want to just send candy bars; we want to provide things that are real, such sending a letter to a Soldier who hasn't gotten one yet. We're counting on the leaders to keep us informed."

Chief Warrant Officer Bud Holzman, citizen of Fair Oaks Ranch and counterintelligence instructor, suggested the idea of the adoption to the city as a way to show community support of military members.

"I want to support the troops any way I can," said Chief Warrant Officer Holzman, who said he was poorly treated upon his return from Vietnam. "Ever since then, I vowed to do whatever I could."

(Elaine Wilson writes for the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)