JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - More than 400 Soldiers of the 1/114th Infantry Battalion, New Jersey Army National Guard, assembled on Doughboy Field June 18, during a farewell ceremony here.
The Soldiers will depart for Fort Bliss, Texas, for pre-mobilization training in preparation for a nine-month deployment to Qatar.
“These brave Soldiers stand ready to leave the comforts of their homes to defend the nation and its interests abroad,” said Brig. Gen. Michael L. Cunniff, adjutant general of the New Jersey National Guard.
“I know you’re all very well prepared, you’re very well trained, and this is an experienced group of Soldiers who will do well,” he added.
Rutgers football’s head coach Kyle Flood thanked the crowd of Soldiers and family members in attendance.
“I want you to know that the Rutgers football family will be thinking about you, will be praying for you while your out there defending the greatest nation on god’s earth,” he said.
Flood also announced the team will host a family appreciation day during training camp in August.
“I don’t want that thank you to be from just today,” he said. “We’re going to host your family members and try to give them an experience to try and make they’re day brighter.”
The mission represents the largest deployment of New Jersey Army National Guard Soldiers since 2008 and the battalion will be operating in an extremely culturally sensitive area, according to Lt. Col. Frederick Pasquale, commander.
In order to meet their mission requirements, the traditionally all-infantry battalion has integrated other non-combat military occupational specialties into the battalion, to include more than 40 females into the fold he said.
“Most infantry battalions are all male,” he said. “We have great young ladies in the formation, who are doing infantry tasks, and it’s just awesome, it’s historic.”
Pasquale said it was important that all the new soldiers were fully integrated into the battalion at the fire team level, and that meant training them to conduct infantry tasks, such as squad live fire training.
“Being able to synchronize the fire, for the team leaders to be able to manage the teams, cross talk to their squad leaders … this is the level where everything happens in the infantry,” he said.
To that end, Pasquale said the unit’s annual training period proved to be extremely successful.
“Our Soldiers are like sponges,” he said. “They’re young, they’re focused, and they’re going over those fundamentals. This battalion is ready for any mission.”
The training served to do more than just build upon fundamental infantry skills, it also helped build camaraderie and teamwork among the infantrymen and the new augmentees.
“It’s great, it’s team building exercises, you really get to know the Soldiers you’re going to be working with,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Hodge of Bravo Company. “You can weed out who is strong and weak in different areas and you can see where you need to work on things.”
This is the second deployment for the 27-year old from Gloucester City. He said that building upon those infantry skills here will help them conduct their mission overseas.
“Having this training here, along with some of the other training we’re getting out here, you never know when you’ll need it,” he said. “You never want to be a soft target.”