ALI AL SALEM, Kuwait (Army News Service, November 14 2006) - Five soldiers sat on a pile of duffle bags and rucksacks in the cool Kuwaiti darkness, awaiting their flight from Ali Al Salem Air Base into Baghdad, Iraq. As they engaged in conversation, an unexpected visitor approached the group saying, "How we doing.'"
Sgt. Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston spent more than an hour talking with Soldiers of the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, on the eve of their deployment from Kuwait into Iraq.
The Soldiers said the surprise visit from the army's top enlisted Soldier did more than provide motivation. He last visited the troops in Jan. 2006.
"The visit reinforced why we're here," said staff sergeant Andrew Spath, a cavalry scout with A Troop, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, who is from Shrewsbury, Mass. "It's great for the Soldiers to see that the Army leadership is behind them."
Preston was scheduled to visit servicemembers in Afghanistan, but couldn't make the trip because of mechanical problems with his aircraft.
The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team was formed last October on Fort Richardson, Alaska, and spent the past year building up and training for their deployment.
spath said Preston's visit was important as the soldiers prepared to board flights into Baghdad International Airport.
"The 4th IBCT has been on deployments before, but we have lots of new Soldiers. They ask us older guys if it's OK to be scared, to be anxious as we head into Iraq. For the SMA to give us a motivational talk, that really means a lot to all of us."
Preston gave the Soldiers a quick update on Army transformation, talked about recruiting and retention and told the Soldiers how important it is to watch out for each other.
"It was a great visit," Preston said. "The Soldiers gave me some good feedback on what went right with the transformation of their unit and what could have been improved. I have been following their transformation efforts since last year and was impressed with how far they have progressed. I expect great things from the 4th IBCT over the next year."
The service members also recently received a visit from George W. Bush, President of the United States.