By Staff Sgt. Amanda Smolinski, USACAPOC (A) Public Affairs NCOApril 28, 2011
WARWICK, R.I. - It was only December 2, 2010 when the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion hosted a farewell ceremony for Charlie Company which deployed to Afghanistan. The Battalion was told Charlie Company would be the last company to deploy out of the battalion's current Reserve Center before moving to the Naval Base in Newport, R.I. this summer. Two days following the ceremony, Bravo Company Soldiers were given notice they were also being deployed to Afghanistan.
With less than 90 days notice to deploy, a notable departing ceremony was held for Bravo Company at the Army Reserve Center in Warwick, R.I. on April 14, 2011. In attendance was Medal of Honor Recipient Mr. Paul W. Bucha, Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln D. Chafee, 304th Civil Affairs Brigade Commander Col. William P. Barriage, along with many family and friends.
The ceremony opened with remarks from Governor Chafee. On behalf of the people of Rhode Island, he wished the Soldiers great success on the mission on which they are about to embark. Following Chafee, was an honored guest speaker, former Army Cpt. and Medal of Honor recipient Bucha. Bucha A,A!A,A!A,A! earned the Medal of Honor while serving as the commanding officer of a reconnaissance-in-force mission in Vietnam.
During his speech, Bucha reminisces on his return home from the war in Vietnam. He remembers people asking him "What was the worth of what you did'" Bucha would reply, "I don't know." He said when he arrived in Vietnam there were no children in sight, not a single a person. They were hiding in their huts. At the end of his tour in Vietnam, he remembered kids playing in the streets and people waving to him. It was at that moment that he asked himself, "What would I give if during the entire life of my young children, not once had they smiled or been out in the street playing with a ball or other kids; what would I give for that'" "If that was what we gave to those people, surely it was worth the price," said Bucha.
"That is what you are about to do; you are about to go to reaches that no man has gone to," Bucha said to Bravo Company. "You are not staying on the silk roads or staying in the major cities, you are going to the villages to talk to the people... and bring them hope. If nothing else comes from this war, then let it be the legacy of hope that you have given to those people; that is something that very few people in the world can work a lifetime to achieve," said Bucha.
During the ceremony, a yellow ribbon was hung prominently on the wall of the Army Reserve center symbolizing the deployed Soldiers of Bravo Company - right next to the yellow ribbon for Charlie Company. The ribbons will hang next to each other on the wall of the Army Reserve Center until all Soldiers come home. A yellow ribbon is used as a symbol of solidarity with someone who is far from home, and an expression of hope that they will return safely and soon.
Lastly, the ceremony concluded with the casing of the company guidion until it can be flown proudly outside the company headquarters in Afghanistan. While the shrilling notes of a bagpiper were played, Soldiers had a brief opportunity to say goodbye to their family and friends before loading a bus to Fort Dix, N.J. where the unit will undergo deployment-specific training. The local police force and patriot guard escorted the bus the entire way to Fort Dix, N.J.
Although Bravo Company, comprised mostly of Soldiers from the New England area, had short notice of their deployment, Maj. Gregory Longfield, Bravo Company Commander, is confident that his Soldiers will be proficient in their battle drills before deploying into theater. The company has already completed two weeks of pre-mobilization training with the Regional Training Center-East (RTC-E) at Fort Dix, N.J. before participating in the farewell ceremony. "Most of the Soldiers are young, they do well in training and are moldable," said Longfield. Many Bravo Company Soldiers will be deploying for the first time. "I have an excellent 1st Sergeant...he mentors the young Soldiers to be able to operate in austere environments and in small teams that are led by an NCO."
1st Sgt. Patrick Bujold knows too well how important it is to have a good NCO Corps in order to carryout the commander's intent. This will be Bujold's third deployment. " I am training the young Soldiers on what to expect, the management skills to run a small team which allows them to operate more efficiently in a larger company size team and showing them how to be consistent," said Bujold. Bujold says he is dedicated to helping them build a firm foundation to be able to carryout the NCO traditions.
Although this is not a first deployment for Staff Sgt. Kenneth Dillingham, a full time military technician at the 443rd Civil Affairs Army Reserve Center, this is his first time deploying as a Civil Affairs Soldier. Dillingham was an administrative specialist prior to re-classifying to Civil Affairs recently. After attending two weeks of training with RTC-E and mentoring from his fellow Bravo Company Soldiers, he is more confident in his Civil Affairs operator skills. "I understand it [the job] better...I learned a lot from the other Soldiers," said Dillingham.
Some families had enough time to attend a pre-deployment Yellow Ribbon event where they were able to meet other families in the company and learn of the many resources available to them during the deployment. "This is my first time experiencing my husband being deployed," said Christina Kierys, wife of Sgt. Anthony Kierys. "At the Yellow Ribbon event I was able to make friendships with other wives in the company." Kierys plans to keep in touch with the family members throughout the deployment to offer support while experiencing similar challenges.
As Bravo Company departs for their mission to Afghanistan, Longfield is already looking at what he hopes to accomplish by the end of the tour. "I am hoping to bring all of my Soldiers back. I want them to make a difference somewhere, it may not be the whole country; but to make a difference for one person or one village is a victory."