ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — Thousands of soldiers from across the state are preparing for a yearlong deployment to Iraq. A total of 2,400 members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, known as the Red Bulls, will head overseas in support of Operation New Dawn. Deployment ceremonies are planned over the coming weeks.
As 90 members of the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery Unit walk down the streets of Anoka, the soldiers are also taking steps away from their family.
“Getting nervous, kinda anxious to see a new country,” said Nick Robbins, who is on his first deployment.
In all, 460 Red Bulls will deploy for training on Sunday and many are on their first tour of duty.
“Nerves, you can’t ever really get over nerves,” said Robbins.
For Robbins, that means not only saying goodbye to Samantha, his wife of three weeks, but he’ll also miss the birth of their first baby.
“I don’t like to think about it a whole lot because it breaks me down,” said Samantha Robbins, who is five months pregnant.
“It’s just another sacrifice of a soldier. It’s what we sign up for and we know our sacrifices when we do,” said Robbins.
Cory Howland and his family have already sacrificed three times.
“It’s a whole year, so it covers the whole range. Every major family holiday, personal family holidays,” said Sgt. 1st Class Cory Howland.
Now on his fourth deployment, it’s not getting any easier for Howland’s wife, Emily.
“I don’t think I’ve gotten used to it, yet,” said Emily Howland.
A good support system always seems to be the answer on how to pull through when a loved one is overseas.
“They’re willing to help me and we help each other, so, it’ll be OK,” said Emily.
Military families have found a way to cope with separation, but it’s in those final moments before their soldier boards a bus that the reality of a year apart sinks in.
“Just stay positive, basically, and we’ll get through it,” said Robbins.
The soldiers leave for training before heading to Kuwait in a few weeks. More deployments will occur over the next few weeks. While overseas, the Red Bulls will provide security for troops in Iraq.