News: Texas Torch: 36th Inf. Div. begins to arrive in Basra
Story by Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Smith
BASRA, Iraq – The 36th Infantry Division’s “torch party” recently arrived in Basra, signaling the beginning stages of that unit’s deployment and the beginning of the end of the 1st Infantry Division’s deployment.
A torch party is the initial group of deployers from a unit that arrive early to set conditions for the arrival of the rest of the unit.
Master Sgt. Sophia Hart, the senior network plans non-commissioned officer for Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Inf. Div., said she is focused on creating as smooth of a transition as possible for her counterpart.
“Not only will they fall into our battle rhythm, but they’ll also incorporate their own,” the Sacramento, Calif., native said. “We’re making sure they merge the two successfully so it’s seamless to those subordinate units.”
Hart said part of a seamless transition is showing her replacement, Master Sgt. Russell Bunger from Pearland, Texas, where to find relevant historical documents and how to interact with his counterparts at United States Forces-Iraq.
Bunger, who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, said his mindset coming into this deployment is different from before.
“My last deployment, we were fully tactical signal so we were providing [communications] to the warfighters out there, making sure that the battlefield commander, wherever he was, whatever kind of operation, he had communications to where he needed, who he needed and when he needed them,” Bunger said. “Now it’s more of a long-term planning, making sure as time goes on we’re able to draw down successfully, hand everything over successfully, and take everybody home.”
Bunger added that the significance of being a part of Operation New Dawn is not lost on him.
“That’s something that knowing you’re a part of that 20, 30, 40 years from you now, you can say, ‘I was there when we brought the troops home,’” Bunger said. “Being a part of that is something big.”
For Hart, this deployment has had different challenges compared to her previous deployment in the 90’s.
“I was a single soldier back then, no husband, no kids. This was a difficult deployment for me simply because I’m a mother and a wife, and I had to leave my children for the very first time in their lives,” Hart said. “I’m anxious to get back into family life; although, I will miss the quietness and the ‘me’ time that I got over here, I’m ready to get back to being the mother and the wife. I’ve been missing that for the past 12 months.”
The 36th Infantry Division is scheduled to replace the 1st Inf. Div. after its 12-month deployment and return to Fort Riley, Kan., in early 2011.