Soldiers of the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade underwent a large amount of preparation and training in a short amount of time to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom during the first week of June.
The brigade’s 1st Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment had 96 hours upon the receiving of orders to get about 100 soldiers boarded onto an aircraft, to leave Fort Hood and their families behind to embark on a mission of “Guarding the Skies” in the Central Command Area of Operations.
The soldiers and leadership had a lot to accomplish before getting on the planes to cross the ocean, and the timeline to take care of business was very short. It was a step-by-step process in which soldiers were given a task to complete, completed it and then moved on to the next task, said Sgt. Jonny Lane, a food service sergeant.
Soldiers had to make sure their online training certificates were up to date, go through medical and dental check-ups, gather necessary equipment and pack their bags. In addition, some soldiers needed to store household goods and privately owned vehicles, as well as ensure their finances were in order. Soldiers with families also had to make certain their families were prepared for their departure.
Elizabeth Olaes, wife of Staff Sgt. Carlos Olaes, said that the experience has been very emotional, and it’s challenging to explain the situation to their children, who are 4 years old and 20 months old.
“I’ve been trying to hold on to (my husband) as much as I can — any second, any minute,” Elizabeth Olaes said.
Some of the families, like Lanes, prefer to say their goodbyes from home rather than just before getting on the buses and going to the airfield. Lane is leaving behind his wife, Jessica, and four children, ages 3, 8, 9 and 11.
Even though the family knew Lane was deploying, it was important to “carry on with life and do the little things, like fishing and playing in the yard with the kids,” up until the very last minute, Lane said.
The families are an important part of mission success, and it is important for soldiers to know there are people here at Fort Hood taking care of them, said Maj. Vernon Shackelford, brigade chaplain.
For many soldiers, like Lane and Olaes, this is not their first deployment, but for many soldiers, it is.
It is important for the soldiers to remember what they were trained to do, and they will be successful, said Brig. Gen. James Dickinson, commander of the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Fort Bliss, as he spoke to the soldiers before boarding the aircraft.
“Patriot is a team. In the end it’s you taking care of each other and doing what you were trained to do,” Dickinson said.
69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade is a part of 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command. Its mission is to rapidly deploy forces worldwide to conduct joint and combined/coalition integrated air and missile defense operations in support of U.S. Central Command and other combatant commanders in order to provide protection of critical assets and support regional security.