Community sendoff honors local troopsRiver Falls-based D Company, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, leaves for overseas this month as part of the biggest operational deployment of Wisconsin soldiers since World War II, according to a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
River Falls-based D Company, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, leaves for overseas this month as part of the biggest operational deployment of Wisconsin soldiers since World War II, according to a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs.
Ryan McNamara, UW-River Falls’ Veterans Service representative and Veterans Club president, said he and a group of others plan a community sendoff honoring soldiers based at the River Falls Armory. McNamara said everyone’s welcome to the 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, event in the ballroom of the University Center.
A ceremony begins at 3:30 p.m. featuring three keynote speakers: Col. Steve Bensend, a UW-RF alum and commander of the 32nd Infantry Brigade; Interim UW-RF Chancellor Connie Foster; and Wisconsin Assembly Rep. Kitty Rhoades.
McNamara, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who now studies accounting and finance at UW-RF, said the sendoff should last an hour.
Neither he nor the D Company personnel know yet exactly when the unit leaves. The military’s news release said all soldiers will be deployed by March 1.
“They don’t give out exact dates for security reasons,” said McNamara.
He The soldiers based out of the River Falls Armory are mostly from River Falls, Prescott and New Richmond.
He says that day will also be family day for the unit, so their loved ones will join them at the ceremony.
“It’s open to the community,” he said.
The news release says D Company, along with about 3,000 other soldiers, just finished three weeks’ pre-mobilization training at Camp Blanding in Florida. The training aimed at sharpening the brigade’s coordination and planning skills and giving it as much field training as possible.
The Exportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) provides realistic field-training exercises with role playing and scenarios that change often. Trainees wear a global positioning system (GPS) device so that leaders can track their movements and see what is happening.
Once deployed, troops will travel to Ft. Bliss, Texas, for two months of mission-specific training before going overseas. Their tour is expected to last a year including the two months in Texas.
McNamara speaks from experience when he says about deployment: “It’s just as stressful for the families as the soldiers.”
People often wonder what they can do to help. McNamara said offering help to troops’ loved ones while they are gone is one way, sending care packages to those serving is another.
D Company, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry’s Family Readiness Group is “the” group in the know about who needs what and when the next care package might be sent.
Local FRG contact person Andrea Simonis said, “What we hear the most from soldiers is that their family members are taken care of while they are gone.”
Simonis said donations or sponsorships are appreciated so the FRG has help paying for care packages or the unit’s family picnics, meetings, recreational events and homecomings or sendoffs. The deployed troops’ families greatly appreciate help in their soldier’s absence, like cooking a meal, mowing a lawn, shoveling a driveway, baking some cookies.
She said it’s always nice to see American flags flying high outside people’s homes or a Support Our Troops sign proudly displayed.
People interested in helping locally can reach Simonis by calling the River Falls Armory at 425-3516. They can also send monetary donations to her attention at the armory’s address: 815 W. Division St., River Falls, 54022.
More generally, several Web sites give more information about what people can do to support the troops: www.americasupportsyou.mil and www.supportourtroops.org.