Nine-month mission includes work managing supply lines

By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — Sgt. Claressa Banister stood with other family members of 49th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command soldiers, dressed in her Army Combat Uniform with her 1-year-old son, Andre, in her arms.

In the field before them stood a handful of the battalion's Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment soldiers, dressed in the darker Afghanistan version of the combat uniform, ready to deploy for the next nine months. Among them was Sgt. Decarlus Banister, Claressa's husband.

"The hardest part is me not being there," said Claressa Banister, also a soldier in the battalion. She and her husband deployed together to Iraq in 2008 from a different post, but this time around, the "49ers" allowed her to remain home to care for Andre.

Regardless, she appreciates the time to care for her son.

"Not everyone gets the luxury of staying back," she said.

During the playing of the national anthem, Claressa Banister put her son down to salute the flag while other civilian spouses continued to hold their children — placing their hands over their hearts. Andre whimpered for most of the song, reaching up toward his mother, clearly distressed about being ignored.

"The unique part of this deployment is having a young child," said Decarlus Banister when comparing this deployment to his previous three, all to Iraq. "Since I'm going by myself this time, I just tried to utilize every second of time to build myself up spiritually.

"It's totally different. It's so hard for me right now, emotion-wise."

Once they arrive in Afghanistan, the 54 deploying soldiers will coordinate the transportation of sustainment supplies and personnel in and out the country from Bagram Airfield, said Lt. Col. Charles Blumenfeld, the battalion's commander.

"The challenge is going to be performing the typical sustainment mission we are there to do and to start to retrograde a lot of the equipment coming out of Afghanistan," he said.

Blumenfeld said the unit will be responsible for a large trucking contract, which uses local Afghan companies to drive supplies for U.S. forces.

"We've trained our soldiers to prepare for the unexpected," said Blumenfeld. "They're ready and we'll tackle each problem as it comes up."

For family members on the homefront, the battalion plans to host monthly video teleconferences with soldiers overseas, said Vicky Word, family readiness support assistant with 4th Sustainment Brigade.

"It lets the soldier know the family is still there," she said. "It allows everyone to take a breather and say, 'We're all good,' and give themselves a reset."

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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