Time spent with family is always precious. But it’s more significant than ever for our local citizen-soldiers.
They have little time left with their families before they face weeks of training in preparation for a nearly nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
While the war is winding down and troop numbers are being reduced, the Roseburg-based Charlie Company of the 1st battalion, 186th infantry is being deployed to the country for the first time.
Eighty-four soldiers from Roseburg will join others in the 186th from St. Helens, Coos Bay, Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland.
The Guardsmen learned last summer of the potential deployment, but it was confirmed more recently. It started to become reality when the Oregon National Guard held a town hall meeting on May 29 to brief soldiers and their families on what to expect.
Before they fly to Afghanistan in September, there will be a series of goodbyes. They will leave for training at Camp Rilea on the northern Oregon Coast on June 21. They will return in time to watch fireworks and celebrate our country’s independence on the Fourth of July. Two weeks later will be the mobilization ceremony in Ashland before they leave for 60 days of intensive training at Fort Hood, Texas. The four-day pass they receive at the end of that training will be their last chance to connect with family before going overseas.
Some of the soldiers are familiar with this pattern. They went through a similar process before deploying to Iraq in 2010.
But those in the know say there are vast differences between the two landscapes and the Guardsmen should expect limited communication with loved ones back home while they’re in the field.
That’s where those who remain behind can be helpful. It’s important that we realize the sacrifices their families must make while the soldiers provide security and support for military facilities in Kabul and southwestern Afghanistan from their post at Bagram Air Field.
The soldiers know their training will prepare them. Most went to western Idaho last summer for intense training under grueling heat and while sleep deprived to become proficient in their maneuvers. That experience readied them for their mission.
It’s more difficult to prepare for what they will miss at home. Milestones will occur — babies will learn to walk, toddlers will begin to talk, school-aged youngsters will participate in activities from spelling bees to science fairs to sporting events. But the parent-soldier won’t witness those moments. Fortunately, with today’s technology, much of it can be captured in pictures and videos that can be shared while the soldier is deployed and again when he or she returns.
Those same families may deal with many unexpected matters — the home and car repairs and family emergencies that invariably arise, making the nine-month deployment feel much longer.
Those of us who remain should keep these families in our thoughts and reach out to help them while the Guardsmen are overseas. Douglas County is known to be supportive of its troops and we need to continue that tradition.