By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
WEST FORT HOOD - About half of the 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment's soldiers have never deployed - a rare statistic among Fort Hood units.
Half the battalion departed Fort Hood for Kuwait Monday, its first deployment since returning to the United States from the Republic of Korea more than two years ago. The battalion deployed from Fort Bliss to Korea in October 2007 and was replaced by the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. Both relocated to Fort Hood upon their returns.
The battalions fall under the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, which relocated to Fort Hood in September 2008. The headquarters was stationed in Wuerzburg, Germany.
When the 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery arrived at Fort Hood in January 2009, it brought about 150 soldiers, said Lt. Col. Mark Holler. Leaders spent the next year welcoming soldiers from other units across the Army and from Advanced Individual Training.
A lot of the battalion's soldiers are very young and serving their first duty assignments, Holler said. That means their families are about to embark on their first deployments, too. Holler, who has deployed once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan, said the key for the families in the next year is to stay busy. It's important for loved ones of the battalion to know they are not alone, said Holler's wife, Dee. She encouraged them to find friends in similar situations and stay active and social. Other families of deployed soldiers are a great resource for information and outlet, she added.
The Hollers are new to the battalion, too. The lieutenant colonel took command Nov. 9 from Lt. Col. Brian Gibson. Holler previously served as the brigade's deputy commander. The colors were also cased for Kuwait during last month's ceremony.
The second half of the battalion is set to deploy to Kuwait next month, said Maj. Luis Lugo, the battalion's operations officer.
The soldiers will spend the next year defending friendly forces and assets critical to the United States Joint Forces Command, Holler said. They will chart new territory, he said, and it will be an exciting mission.
For more on this story, including more photos from Monday's departure, read Wednesday's Fort Hood Herald.