The tiny circles of family, friends and uniformed men and women that dotted the Trinity Baptist Church fellowship hall formed around the surge of emotion that comes with saying goodbye to loved ones headed off to war.
With hugs and backslaps, tears and kisses, the 150 soldiers of the N.C. Army National Guard’s 105th Military Police Battalion spent precious moments together before the unit leaves Thursday for Fort Bliss, Texas. From there, the unit will go to war in Iraq, where it will work security at an internment camp in Baghdad, Iraq.
For some, the event was tinged with apprehension.
“I’m just anxious,” Jennifer Cline said as her husband, Specialist Nick Cline, held their 2-year-old son Keelan. “I’m proud of him, but of course I’m going to miss him.”
Nick Cline, a construction worker in Winston-Salem, said he was ready to get moving with his first deployment. “I’m ready to get over there and serve my country,” he said.
For others, like Sgt. Timothy Sagoes, the goodbyes were all too familiar. Sagoes, a Charlotte resident, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2003-‘04 and to Iraq in 2005-‘06 as an active duty member of the Army.
Now with the military police National Guard unit, Sagoes said he knows what to expect. The time away is hard on his family — his wife, Lawanda, his 8-year-old son Timothy Jr. and his 4-year-old Jayla.
“They’re a little down,” he says, adding that he’s looking forward to using the Skype Internet calling service to keep in contact with his loved ones.
The best advice Sagoes offers to his fellow soldiers is simple: “Don’t let your guard down.” And he’s optimistic. “We’re progressing,” Sagoes says of the U.S. involvement in Iraq.
The official ceremony was marked by speeches from military officials and politicians.
Brigadier Gen. David L. Jennette Jr. said the worry, pride and sacrifice on the part of the soldiers and their families as paying off, noting that unit’s mission is to work beside Iraqi security forces to turn over control of the interment camp to them. Lieutenant Col. Warren Wintrode, commander of the 105th, promised family and friends to keep them informed of the unit’s work. And Buncombe County Commissioner Bill Stanley got a rise from the soldiers when he wished them a safe return and said: “When in doubt, empty the magazine.”
The 105th Military Police Battalion, which has about 150 soldiers, is the second area guard unit to be sent to Iraq this year. The 163rd Area Support Medical Company in East Flat Rock was recently deployed, and the Army Reserve’s 357th Transportation Group is set to leave next month.
Click here to view a photo gallery of the deployment ceremony.