The 200 Springfield-based soldiers who said their goodbyes Sunday to family and friends before leaving on a year-long deployment with the Ohio Army National Guard are in good hands, the unit commander said.
“We’ve got experience and maturity,” Col. Gregory W. Robinette, commander of the 371st Sustainment Brigade, said after the brigade’s call-to-duty ceremony at Wittenberg University’s HPER Center. “We’ve got soldiers who know their business and will take care of each other.”
About half of the Kuwait-bound brigade — which relocated from Kettering in 2011 to a new, $17.3 million facility near the Springfield Air National Guard Base — are experiencing deployment for the first time, Robinette said. But, 54 others are deploying for a second time. Another 44 have deployed three or more times, he said.
About 20 of them are veterans of the first Gulf War, Robinette added.
“This is our new generation of warriors. This is our new generation of heroes,” Maj. Gen. Deborah A. Ashenhurst, adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard and a Springfield native, told the soldiers and their loved ones Sunday.
The brigade’s 200 soldiers will first conduct training at Fort Hood in Texas before leaving in June for Kuwait, where they’ll manage the supply chain of goods coming in and out of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation’s 11-year-old effort to transform Afghanistan.
Rachel Gettys, a resident of Cardington in Morrow County who is also in the Guard, wished Sunday she could be going with her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Kyle Gettys.
In 2004, the Gettys deployed together to Iraq, and the two marked their first wedding anniversary while there.
This time, Rachel Gettys will instead be going back to college to finish her degree.
“I’m going to try to keep my mind off of him leaving,” she said.
Managing the house by herself will be the biggest challenge, she said.
“He’s hired someone to cut the grass already and snow blow,” Rachel Gettys said.
Their 16-year-old daughter, Courtney, at least gets to keep her mother this time. In 2004, at age 7, she had to live with her biological father during the deployment to Iraq.
“I’m older. I can handle it better,” Courtney Gettys said.
She also now understands why her stepfather has to go again.
“He’s serving his country,” she said. “When he became a soldier, he knew he’d have to do this. He’s fulfilling his duty.”
For those being left behind, Blue Star Mothers of Preble County was on hand Sunday to pass out those iconic blue-star window banners that serve notice of a loved one’s service overseas.
“You see a house with a star in the window, you realize what that family is going through. And you thank them,” said Jeff Ott, a resident of New Paris in Preble County.
He and his wife, Patricia, have had a blue-star banner hanging in their window for nine years. Their son, Joshua, is a Marine with service in Iraq.
“To us,” Patricia Ott said, “it means respect and pride as parents.”
Not everyone Sunday, however, was leaving behind a loved one.
Sgt. Daniel Cox, 22, of Hilliard, who repairs weapons, is being deployed for the first time with his girlfriend of two years, Pfc. Victoria Casey, 20, of Hilliard.
Casey will deploy May 1 for training at either Fort Benning in Georgia or Camp Shelby in Mississippi as part of a contingent of 76 additional soldiers from the local brigade.
“We’re meeting in Kuwait the same day,” Cox said.
They’re excited to be together — but they’re also trying to keep the excitement in check.
“When we’re deployed, I’m going to be Sgt. Cox and she’s going to be Pvt. Casey. It’s going to be a professional relationship,” Cox insisted. “I don’t want to lose rank over this.”