Nineteen months after American-led forces began Operation Iraqi Freedom, our local soldiers continue to serve a pivotal role in the Middle East. That effort will soon include Wisconsin's National Guard 1158thTransportation Company who had their sendoff Sunday in Beloit.
Friends and loved ones packed the Beloit Armory for the sendoff; 130 soldiers from the unit's Beloit detachment will spend the next six weeks training in the U.S. Then they are off to Kuwait in December to begin their mission. This is the unit's second mobilization.
In March of 2003, the unit's 280 soldiers trained in the United States but were released from duty before serving in Iraq.
23 News reporter Brad Broders talked with soldiers preparing for war and time away from their families.
On a day when the 1158th said goodbye to their families, soldier Andrew Yeadon parted ways with his four-month-old daughter, Emma, despite hardly saying hello.
Yeadon says, “I'm going to miss over half of her life right now so that's not very fun, but I know my wife's strong and if she can put up with me she can deal with me being gone.”
While the 1158th's second deployment since 2003 came as a surprise to some, leaders say they're never surprised with the unit's heart and dedication.
Lashell Lentz, the 1st Lt. Commander tells 23 News, "No one wants to leave their family. No one wants to have that separation, but everyone wants to do a good job and everyone wants to do their duty and everyone is excited about that.
From Beloit the unit will head to Fort Benning, Georgia for additional training. Then it's on to Middle East for Operation Iraqi Freedom. While the exact length of their stay is unknown, what's constant is the support from the stateline.
Mirander Kaempfer, a soldier with the unit, says, "We are saying goodbye to our families and loved ones for a year and a half. Of course it’s a commitment we made, so it's hard but the support makes it much easier.”
With the full support of his wife, Jennifer Yeadon now must focus on the military task at hand. He must fulfill his service to his country and his infant daughter.
Yeadon says, “It's unexplainable unless you have a child to know what it's like to want to come home and watch them grow up. You want to teach them how to drive, fork out the money for college and I want to make sure I stay safe and come back to her."
Now this unit has a mission to try to keep the family bond along with the mission of military success overseas.