By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD - One of the initial flights of 4th Brigade Combat Team soldiers left Fort Hood for the Middle East Saturday.

The 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Eric Land and Command Sgt. Maj. Cassandra Redd, will serve as the lead battalion for the brigade as it deploys to Northern Iraq in an advise-and-assist role.

The battalion is made of many combat enablers such as communications, intelligence and engineer units, Land said, so it made sense that they depart first and set conditions for the brigade's arrival.

The commander said he gets questions from people about why the battalion is deploying when the president announced that combat operations in Iraq ended Sept. 1 and Operation Iraqi Freedom was renamed Operation New Dawn. He explains to them that the battalion's primary mission is to partner with similar Iraqi units and assist them in conducting operations or further enabling their capabilities.

Land was in Iraq in 2008 and said the country was doing remarkably better now.

He further explained the types of work his soldiers will conduct during the deployment, which is scheduled to last 12 months. The battalion has a military police platoon and those soldiers will partner with Iraqi police. A platoon would typically partner with an Iraqi battalion, but the battalion's military police will likely be

oriented at stations or districts, Land said.

Capt. Brian Murphy, Alpha Company's commander, departed Saturday and his wife, Capt. Katie Murphy, is set to leave today.

Katie is a clinical social worker in Charlie Company and the two will serve at the same base in Iraq. The two have an 18-month-old son, Aidan, who will stay with Katie's parents while the couple is deployed.

This is Murphy's third deployment, his wife's first.

Though he departed Fort Hood on Sept. 11, he didn't think it held particular significance. The day has always meant a lot to him, he said. He was an ROTC student at the University of Vermont and watched the events of that day unfold on TV. As it gets closer to the 10-year anniversary of the attacks, Murphy said he thought the milestone would get more prominence.

Murphy said Saturday he was ready to get the deployment started because he enjoyed the intensity of his job in Iraq because he could "really make a difference."

For more on this story, including the experiences of several other soldiers departing Saturday, read Wednesday's Fort Hood Herald.

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