A Long Day for Single Soldiers

Sgt. John D. Ortiz
Public Affairs Office
4th Sustainment Brigade

FORT HOOD, Texas — For the more than 200 Soldiers assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Headquarters element, July 18 was the day they said goodbye to their Families and friends at Kieschnick Gym for their yearlong deployment to Iraq.

Many Soldiers were accompanied by their children and significant others for the early morning ceremony that began at 1:30 a.m., yet there were a few in the crowd sitting quietly off to the side by themselves; single Soldiers.

"It's hard being here alone," said Spc. Dan C. Smith, 27, and a native of Pittsburg, Pa. "My Family lives far away and I realize that my parents could not come, but I don't let it bother me too much."

Smith, a financial management specialist and a first-time deployer, said his Family has been calling his cell phone throughout the day. "They are supportive of me as much as they can be through the phone."

The day of deployment for single Soldiers is not about having the last home-cooked meal or even time to relax one last time; instead it is spent cleaning and clearing their barracks' room and talking on the phone.

"I spent all day cleaning every nook and cranny in my barracks' room getting ready for barracks' management," said Smith. "In the end, I threw away a lot of clothes and a lot of stuff that I wasn’t going to need."

For Pfc. Zack Betzler, 20, and a native of Avon Lake, Ohio, the day was spent on his phone and cleaning. "Once I cleaned my barracks' room, management came through and kicked us out around 7 p.m. and since then I have just been on my phone all night long with my Family."

"It's rough being here without them, especially my fiancé. I said goodbye to them when I was home on block leave," said Betlzer, an information technology specialist.

“This being my first deployment, my stomach has been in knots all week,” he said. “People tell you about their experiences, but you never know until you find out for yourself.”

Single or married, and even those Soldiers with significant others, a deployment ceremony is a chance for those deploying to receive a grand send-off.

Speaking to the crowd, Col. Knowles Atchison, the Deputy Commander for the 13th SC (E) said that everyone must keep the fire burning bright for their Soldier’s wellbeing.

“This is one team, one fight,” said Atchison. “We are going to make history. We are going to be in charge of more than 16,000 troops and we are going to sustain and protect the force at the same time we are drawing Iraq down from 150,000 to 50,000 troops.”

“We have to keep the fires burning bright,” said Atchison, “because God is with us, you’re with us, and all of central Texas is behind us.”

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FORT HOOD, Texas — Family members wait together on the steps of Kieschnick Gym to say one last goodbye to their Soldiers as they board the bus that will take them to their plane and a year-long deployment. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. John D. Ortiz)

 

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FORT HOOD, Texas — Spc. Dan C. Smith, 27, and a native of Pittsburg, Pa., looks straight ahead while waiting for the deployment ceremony to start at Kieschnick Gym prior to his year- long deployment to Iraq. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. John D. Ortiz)

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FORT HOOD, Texas — Col. Fredrick Brown, the operations officer for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) checks his carry-on bag is small enough to fit in the oversize compartment during his 19-hour flight to Iraq. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. John D. Ortiz)

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FORT HOOD, Texas — (Foreground) Pfc. Zack Netzler, 20, and a native of Avon Lake, Ohio sits and talks with his friend PV2 Melissa Posey, 21, and a native of Philadelphia, Miss., pior to the 13th Sustainment Command's (Expeditionary) deployment ceremony. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. John D. Ortiz)