JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- “America’s Combat Support Hospital” is trained and ready
to embark on their missions in support of Operation New Dawn.

Leaders of the 47th Combat Support Hospital cased the unit colors in front of the medical professionals in formation during a deployment ceremony June 30 at Wilson Sports and Fitness Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Lewis North June 30, bringing it a step closer to Iraq.

More than 100 personnel will depart this week, with another 100 deploying as part of a second element during late summer. This will be the unit’s fourth deployment to Iraq in eight years.

The 47th CSH redeployed from its third tour in Iraq in January 2010.

Commander of the 47th CSH, Col. Scott Avery, said he was proud of his Soldiers and their Families for enduring a hectic year.

“As we prepare to deploy to Iraq, I look back at the last 12 months and realize what a ride it’s been for the Soldiers and Families of the 47th CSH,” Avery said.

By the end of summer last year, it became apparent the unit would deploy to Iraq " just months after the unit had redeployed.

“The next eight months would be filled with the double duty of continuing to prepare for what became a very fluid mission set in Iraq and serving as the brigade headquarters for 62nd (Medical Brigade) elements here at JBLM, all of which were on varying cycles,” Avery said.

The 47th CSH will be responsible for three missions in Iraq: the first will provide command and control of echelon-above-brigade medical units dispersed across Iraq providing Army Health System support for the “Advise and Assist Forces” in Iraq; the second mission is to operate a hospital in the southern part of Iraq as part of the Army Health System; the third mission to provide initial health support to Department of State personnel at its facilities.

The Soldiers underwent intensive training at JBLM and across the U.S., including the Combat Readiness Center at Fort Benning, Ga., in preparation for the missions ahead.

The unit will join others in Iraq to form Medical Task Force 47, which will receive an additional 14 medical companies and detachments to perform medical functions throughout Iraq.

The I Corps deputy commanding general said as critical as accomplishing the task force’s missions is the manner in which its Soldiers conduct themselves. Major General Lloyd Miles addressed the importance of understanding the dual role.

“When you enter that land of terrible beauty and ancient culture, you will be more than a representative of a medical brigade or America’s Corps,” Miles said. “You will be looked upon as a symbol of the greatest nation in the world " a country that most of the residents of that troubled land have only heard about, read about or dreamed about.”

Miles and Avery also underscored the role of Family members in the unit’s preparations and future endeavors.

“I truly believe that you, the Family members, carry the heaviest burden of this war,” Miles said. “We would not be able to do what we do " with the high morale and focus that we have " without the love and support we have from you.

For Capt. Yesenia Byrne, 47th CSH, Family got her through a deployment to Afghanistan and will undoubtedly get her through this one.

Byrne plans on staying in close contact with her husband and three teenagers through the Internet, and expects doing so will be easier than her first deployment.

“I’ve heard that in Iraq there’s better communication than what we had in Afghanistan, so I’ll use it as often as I can,” Byrne said.

Joseph, her husband and Army retiree, said he is proud of Yesenia and said he doesn’t anticipate being overly worried about his wife while she is deployed.

“I feel confident in her ability,” he said. “I admire her for what she’s doing, and as far as the Family, I think we’ve set up things pretty well so that everything will be taken care of.”

The 47th CSH will be making history as part of the last U.S. military hospital to serve in Iraq providing Level 3 medical treatment for Soldiers throughout the country.

Laura M. Levering: