|The Price National Guard Unit of the 1457th engineeer Combat Battalion gathered Tuesday evening for a group picture as plans are finalized for their deployment to Fort Lewis in Washington. Pictured above, from the left, beginning on the top include SSG Berdan, SPC Hatfield, SGT Newby, SPC Wissmar, SPC Sanderson, SSR Randall, SPC Gurule, SPC Manning, SPC Peirce, SSG Black, SSG Quarles, SSG Keller, 2LT Wolff, SPC Emery, SPC Wheeler, PFC Payton, SPC Argyle, SPC Barney, SPC Pierce, SPC Larsen, SPC Shannon, SPC Roberts, SPC Anderson, SPC Archuleta, SSG Tallerico, SPC Wayman, CPL Thomas, SPC Cave, SPC Black, and SPC Boyack.|
The images are etched in our minds. Soldiers around the country bidding good-bye to their wives, children, parents and loved ones. But the threat of war just got a little closer Tuesday night in Price as 30 National Guardsman from the 1457 Engineer Combat Battalion gathered at the National Guard Armory with their families for final deployment instructions.
The Price unit is one of eight units in Utah that is preparing to deploy approximately 500 soldiers in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Noble Eagle. The Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Jefferson Burton received notification to mobilize Monday with deployment orders for Thursday, February 13. The battalion is designed to construct combat roads, airfields and protective shelters, as well as to conduct demolition and mine/countermine warfare.
Soldiers received their notifications late last week and reported to the armory where they began preparing for the deployment. Second Lt. Wolff explained, "We received the alert notice last Wednesday and started notifying our men and the mobilization orders arrived over the weekend." The local unit spent all weekend taking the equipment out of storage and loading it on trucks.
"It's a monumental task to take all the equipment we have, get it secured, accounted for and loaded," he explained.
"We are 100 percent ready to roll," said Wolff as he addressed about a 100 friends and family members Tuesday evening. "We have had a short lead time and I appreciate all the hard work that has been done."
The Price unit will depart from the local armory Thursday at 1 p.m. by bus to Salt Lake City where they'll board a military aircraft for the final leg to Fort Lewis. A farewell parade is scheduled at 1 p.m., Thursday as locals will escort the unit from the armory to the freeway. According to Chamber of Commerce officials, police and fire vehicles will escort the bus and people are invited to bring flags, posters or themselves to cheer the guardsmen on as they depart. The route will go past CEU and travel down 300 East to 100 North, then turn west toward the freeway.
Once in Washington the guardsmen will conduct soldier readiness processing before receiving orders for their follow on assignment.
They have no idea where they will go from there, said Wolff.
The ceremony Tuesday night at the armory served a combination of functions. Carolyn Randall, whose son Waco, will leave with the unit Thursday coordinated a teddy bear effort receiving donations of bears or money to buy bears and each soldier was given a bear to be given to each of their children. Carolyn is a state advisor for the National Guard.
A meal was provided to the soldiers and their families and friends. Coordinated by the City of Price the meal was made possible through donations from Tram Electric, Price City, Sunnyside Co-gen, UPS, Supreme Muffler, Phillips Conoco, Carbon County, Smith's, Wal-Mart, Albertsons, K-Mart and R&A Market.
Mayor of Price City, Joe Piccolo addressed the group in a touching send-off. He expressed his gratitude to their patriotism and hard work, saying, "You have grown up together, worked together, played together, and now you will defend your country together and then come home together."
He did tell the families that a web page will be set up in the city library so families can communicate with their loved ones free of charge.
He also pledged to the families that the city will do whatever they can to help them while their soldiers are gone. He ended by saying, "the threat of war seems a long way away, but tonight it is coming real close to home."
Much of the evening was also dedicated to informing the families of many of the harsh realities that go along with war. A team of family support providers addressed the group about estate planning, wills, and employment rights. A packet of information was provided to each family.
Clinging to stuffed bears and their daddies many tiny children appeared to sense that something was changing in their families. Holding hands and sitting very close to each other, wives, mothers and fathers sat with their soldiers as the realities of their immediate future became clear.