News: Farewell ceremony held for deploying soldiers
Story by Spc. Andrew Baba
WESTERVILLE, Ohio – It was an emotion-filled atmosphere as families, friends and members of the community spent the last few moments with their soldiers at a deployment ceremony held in their honor before they set out on a one-year deployment to Afghanistan.
The 130 soldiers of the 490th Signal Company (Tactical Installation Network – Enhanced) from Columbus, Ohio are set to deploy to Afghanistan in the fall of 2013 to support Operation Enduring Freedom. The July 14 ceremony that was held at Westerville High School was the last time soldiers would see their loved ones. Before going overseas, the soldiers will report to Fort Hood, Texas, for a period of premobilization training.
Although training has been ongoing in preparation for this deployment, a significant portion of the training and mission readiness will happen at Fort Hood.
“The leadership and soldiers of the 490th SC (TIN-E) have committed enormous time and resources to the training and readiness process,” said Capt. Emile Hawkins, company commander and native of New Orleans, La.
“Soldiers in the unit have been adequately trained and retrained on various aspects of their jobs to ensure the success of this mission.”
The 490th SC (TIN-E) is an average size unit, but has the capabilities to support robust missions. This makes their roles very important to the success Operation Enduring Freedom.
“What we bring to the mission is crucial – and that is communication. Part of our job will be to maintain and refurbish the existing communication network that supports the operation in Afghanistan.”
Amid the excitement and tearful emotions as families, friends and the community bid the soldiers farewell, the departing soldiers maintained high morale.
“The reason for the great morale has nothing to do with anything I or the first sergeant have done,” said Hawkins. “It has to do with the attitude of the people in the unit. We have been fortunate to have Soldiers with great attitude, as well as junior leaders who understand what it takes to build a strong team. The 490th SC (TIN-E) is like a family.”
The deploying soldiers spoke in a similar vein corroborating Hawkins on the family-like cohesiveness that exists in the unit.
“In reality I have one brother, but I have thousands of brothers and sisters in the Army. They are the reason I can bear the pain of separation from my wife and four boys,” said Midland, Texas, native Staff Sgt. Israel Ramirez, computer-programming specialist.
Though the soldiers do acknowledge that it is hard leaving family behind for one year, they appeared prepared to cope.
“I will put my best into doing my job, and when I have any down time, I intend to lend a hand to a brother or sister who might need help doing their own jobs,” said Hephzibah, Ga., native Spc. Gregory Grant, cable installation and maintenance specialist.
Not all families will be separated by this deployment though. Rather, it will bring some families closer. Pfc. Eric Schmitt, information technology specialist, and Pfc. Brittney Ricker-Schmitt, cable installer/maintainer, both from Lima, Ohio, are deploying together – as a couple.
“Soon after we got married three years ago I enlisted in the Army, and some days after my husband enlisted too,” said Ricker-Schmitt.
“We are happy to be together on this deployment. The sense of each other’s presence on the same mission will keep us focused on our jobs. We don’t have any kids, but we will miss our dog.”
Col. James. M. Chatfield, Jr., commander of company’s headquarters, the 359th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, bade the Soldiers farewell in 130 handshakes, as they boarded the Fort Hood-bound airplane from the Port Columbus International Airport, Ohio.