By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
Nânâ i kou mô’î
Ka lani ali’i,
(Hawaii’s own true sons.
Be loyal to your chief
Your country’s liege and lord
“Makua lani ê,
Na kaua e pale,
Me ka ihe”
Shall defend in war
Nânâ i nâ ali’i
Nâ pua muli kou
(Hawaii’s own true sons
Look to your chief
Those chiefs of younger birth
E ka lâhui e
‘O kâu hana nui
(Hawaii’s own true sons
People of loyal heart
The only duty lies
List and abide)
Staff Sgt. Samuel Hesch’s voice rang out over a pensive crowd Oct. 22 as he sang Hawaii’s state anthem.
He stepped back and there were a few moments of silence before another soldier, this one wearing a cavalry Stetson, approached the microphone and belted a more familiar tune.
“Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain
And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.
Oklahoma, Ev’ry night my honey lamb and I
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk
Makin’ lazy circles in the sky.
We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand!
And when we say
We’re only sayin’
You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma!
About 2,500 soldiers from Oklahoma’s 45th Fires Brigade and Hawaii’s 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team said farewell to Fort Hood during an Oct. 22 ceremony. The units combined to form Task Force Lava Thunder, a combination of their nicknames.
ALL ABOUT FAMILY
Hundreds of family members from Oklahoma, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and Saipan traveled to Central Texas for the event.
Two of those in the crowd didn’t have to go far to see family members standing in formation on the parade field. Sgt. Ellery Arriola and Spc. Cedric Omar simply had to cross Fort Hood.
Arriola is a soldier in the 4th Infantry Division’s 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment and Omar is in the 1st Cavalry Division’s Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Both are from Saipan and both have family members serving in the 29th, including Omar’s brother, Staff Sgt. John Agnon.
Omar was proud to be at the ceremony, showing his family support. Family is a big part of the culture back home, he said, and he carries that wherever he may be in the world. It’s important that family stick together, Arriola added.
Family is what Spc. Ambreh Holi will miss the most while she’s deployed, especially her 18-month-old daughter, Lilea. This is the 21-year-old Waianae native’s first deployment.
Holi will also miss the food. She and fellow soldiers have already shipped woks, rice and cans of Spam “so when we get there we have a piece of home.”
The unit is close and the soldiers treat one another like brothers and sisters, Holi said.
“We have each other’s backs,” she added.
Col. Bruce E. Oliveira, task force commander, thanked the families for their support.
“They are part of Task Force Lava Thunder as much as the soldiers on this field,” he said.
Oliveira and other officials also thanked the soldiers’ employers for their support while the units are deployed.
Among the guests at last week’s ceremony were Hawaiian U.S. Congressman Neil Abercrombie, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces; Hawaii state Sen. Mike Gabbard; Hawaiian U.S. Sen. Daniel Kahikina Akaka, chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management; and Oklahoman U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.
“I want to extend my warmest ‘mahalo’ to each of you for your sacrifices and service over these past several years. Your dedication to duty does not go unnoticed,” Akaka, a World War II veteran, said in an Oct. 22 release on his Web site.
MOBILIZING AND TRAINING
The units mobilized at North Fort Hood in August and spent the last several months preparing for a deployment to the Middle East.
Task Force Lava Thunder is set to replace the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, soldiers from the Ohio and Michigan Army National Guards, which also mobilized at Fort Hood and deployed in April.
The National Guard and Reserve units that mobilize at Fort Hood spend two months practicing tasks they may need during their deployment. Those include basic combat skills such as marksmanship and room-clearing.
This is training soldiers undertake before deploying, regardless of their jobs, said Capt. Rob Richardson, who is with the 120th Infantry Brigade, the North Fort Hood-based unit responsible for training the units who mobilize there.
The final stage focuses on urban operations. That training also focused on important tasks like carrying out searches on individuals and treating casualties.
The 120th Brigade is set to train about 18 units from November to mid-April 2009 at North Fort Hood, said 1st Lt. Marvin Baker, brigade spokesman. They are mostly small units with about 100 people each.
The Wyoming National Guard’s 115th Fires Brigade will mobilize in mid-April for two months of training at Fort Hood before replacing the 45th Fires Brigade in Kuwait. The 115th has more than 2,600 soldiers.
The 120th also has made an effort to get involved with the Gatesville community since its soldiers arrived at North Fort Hood. The brigade adopted three schools and plans to do community-service projects and conduct town hall meetings, Baker said.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Task Force Lava Thunder soldiers will not just deploy; they will make a positive difference in Iraq, said Maj. Gen. Mark A. Graham, First Army commander.
“You will succeed as one team,” he said.
The soldiers will carry out a variety of missions in Kuwait and Iraq, including base and convoy security, said Maj. Frank Horton, a 45th Fires spokesman.
The upcoming deployment is an “important and defining part of the rest of your lives,” Oliveira said to the soldiers standing before him.
The colonel said that athletes and entertainers are too often regarded as heroes.
“But I know where the real-life American heroes live and work,” he said.