Answering the call, for the love of their country

Story by Spc. James Truitt
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office

Approximately 4,000 National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers, roughly the entire population of New York's seaside resort town Southampton, deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In the wake of their deployment, the citizen soldiers the 81st Brigade Combat Team left not only their families, but also their civilian lives and jobs when called to active duty.

"Within my command I have got a Boeing engineer, medics, technicians, firefighters who make about 80 to 100 thousand dollars a year," said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Barr, 81st BCT Command Sgt. Maj. "I've even got a battalion commander who makes more money on and off duty as a cop than he makes wearing the uniform."

"The guys who really don't need to do this, are here," Barr added. "But they are here because of their sense of duty. and the love of their country."

Personnel from all walks of life, teachers and student to owner's of small businesses and postal workers rose to set their civilian lives aside to answer the call of duty.

"It was difficult leaving my family," said Staff Sgt. Lyle Lamb, HHC 81st BCT, Colt team chief, husband, and father of five. "It was tough leaving my wife all by her lonesome with the kids, but she's proud to say her husband is serving [his country]."

Lamb is a maintenance supervisor for the postal office in Portland, Oregon.

"[LSA Anaconda] isn't too bad, it's a lot nicer than I thought it would be," Lamb said as he consumed another spoonful of the DEFAC's Tooty Fruity ice cream. "We're out here to do a job, when that job is done we'll go home."

"When I heard that we were getting activated my first though was 'I'm going back'," said Master Sgt. Brian Thimmig, HHC 81st BCT, S-3, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin native. "When I [deployed] here during the first gulf war, my kids were young, now that they're older they didn't like the idea of me [deploying] but they understand that it's my job and my life."

Thimming, in the civilian realm, works closely with the military as a technician repairing tanks and Bradleys.

"I've been getting paid to drill and train," Thimming added. "Bottom line, it is my duty to be here."

"In some cases people make more money in their civilian jobs than what they are making here," said Barr. "But because of their comment to service they still give 100 percent."

"You've just got to admire someone like that," added Barr.

"For me, I look to [this deployment] as an advantage," kidded Barr. "For me I hope my twin one-year-old daughters are potty trained by the time I get home."

Barr finished with a smile.

"From NTC, we flew to Kuwait, crossed the border and convoyed to at Camp Anaconda," said Brig Gen. Oscar B. Hilman, 81st BCT Commanding General. "Now we're here together performing our American duties as a team.

"I'm very proud of my soldiers," added Hilman. "I'm proud of them, and of their outstanding performance."

The 81st BCT recently assumed command of base security from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division after a TOA ceremony April 18.