By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
NORTH FORT HOOD – Soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard's 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team will soon depart Fort Hood after a casing ceremony Thursday.
The brigade, which has more than 2,300 soldiers, will conduct several missions in Kuwait and Iraq, including convoy security operations and force protection at several bases. This is the second time the brigade has deployed soldiers to Iraq.
This is the 53rd's most critical mission yet, said Col. Richard Gallant, who commands the brigade.
"We embark on a mission of strategic importance during this most critical time in the effort to draw down American forces and ensure the seeds of freedom and security grow strong in Iraq," he said. "This mission will be challenging and demanding and will certainly test our endurance and flexibility."
The brigade had a year to train for its mission, and the soldiers mobilized in January at Fort Hood to prepare with the help of First Army Division West's 120th Infantry Brigade.
The 120th trains and validates mobilized National Guard and Reserve soldiers at North Fort Hood.
The brigade, made up of five battalions, one squadron and one detachment, is the largest National Guard unit in Florida, according to information from the division. The 53rd is the fourth-largest rotation of Reserve-component soldiers to mobilize at Fort Hood since January 2008.
Capt. Daniel Brown, a personnel officer in the 53rd Special Troops Battalion, is a native of Dallas, but the training period was his first time at Fort Hood. His wife of almost four years, Ericka, is from Tampa, Fla.
A large group of family and friends from Dallas and Tampa attended Thursday's casing ceremony. Ericka said the family does everything together and a lot of loved ones from Dallas and Tampa attended the ceremony to show Daniel support before he deploys.
"And we'll be here when he gets back," Ericka added.
Flights carrying 53rd soldiers to the Middle East are set to start departing Fort Hood this week.
Daniel is excited about the deployment. The mission doesn't entail kicking down doors, he said, but the brigade is part of something important. The 26-year-old put on the uniform because he wanted his children to read the history books and know their father was just that: part of something important.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.
Among the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team's ranks are 14 married couples, several sets of siblings, fathers and sons and fathers and daughters. Read about how Carol Gallant deals with seeing her husband and daughter deploy with the brigade in next week's Fort Hood Herald.
III Corps soldiers deploy to Iraq
The last main body group of III Corps Headquarters soldiers departed Fort Hood Thursday. About 300 were honored at a farewell ceremony Thursday afternoon at Fort Hood's Kieschnick Physical Fitness Center. Brig. Gen. William Grimsley, who will lead the rear detachment in the next year, said about 600 III Corps soldiers are on the ground in Iraq. The corps commander, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, said earlier this month that about 1,000 will deploy.