Fort Benning bid farewell Tuesday evening to about 150 soldiers assigned to the 598th Maintenance Company, now bound for Afghanistan.
While overseas, the 598th — an element of the 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion — will provide direct support maintenance and vehicle recovery support.
“Morale of the unit is very high,” said Capt. Amaka Auer, commander of the 598th Maintenance Company, “We’ve done a lot of preparation for this deployment. We’re ready — ready to support.”
The unit last deployed to Iraq from February 2007 to April 2008, and before that in 2005.
During the next few months, the remainder of the battalion will deploy to Afghanistan with the mission of supplying personnel, general supplies, bulk fuel, maintenance, water, laundry and bath, and transportation support.
In April, about 80 Fort Benning soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion departed for a yearlong deployment to Iraq.
Families had the opportunity Tuesday to exchange last-minute goodbyes from 4:30 p.m. to about 6 p.m. in the unit’s company area. The mood outside the 13th CSSB headquarters was somber as soldiers held their children close and kissed their spouses moments before boarding buses that carried them to Lawson Army Airfield.
“We all know it’s been coming for quite a while,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Hoosline. “So we get a couple of hours to say goodbye and get ready to go. We’ve been training for a year, so we’re trained and we’re ready to go do what we’ve got to do. And my family understands and they support me 100 percent, which makes it much easier to do.”
As the temporary man of the house, 9-year-old Justin Hoosline said he will support his mom, Jeri, in any way he can while his dad serves his country overseas. April Hoosline, 15, said she is prepared to step up, too, and help care for her baby sister, 9-month-old Chenoa. Still, Jeri Hoosline has her work cut out for her, the sergeant said.
“Without her strength and her abilities, I don’t know if it’d even be possible,” Gregory Hoosline said. “If the shoes were on the other feet, I don’t think I could do it. She definitely fills both roles. She becomes the head of the household and mom still at the same time, so I think she’ll be busier than we are.”
The last time Spc. Candice Palen deployed she was a single soldier with no children. Now she is married and has a 3-year-old son. Leaving them behind is by far the worst part of her job, she said.
“Now it sucks because I don’t get to see my son or my husband for a while,” Palen said. “And that’s the main thing. Just leaving family and having to pick up and get settled somewhere else.”
Pvt. Brandon Gencarelli and his wife, Sherri, said their 2-year-old daughter, Kendra, is too young to comprehend a year without dad. They just tell her he’s going to work and will be back soon.
“I’m just trying to spend as much time with them as I can,” Gencarelli said of his family.
Spc. Jerome Johnson’s family lives in California and couldn’t make it to Fort Benning for Tuesday’s deployment ceremony. That’s OK, though, because the company will have access to the Internet and phone, making it easy for him to keep in touch with his loved ones.
Sophie Greenman is almost 3 and loves it when her dad reads to her each day, so Jennifer Greenman came up with a clever way to ensure her husband, Spc. Jason Greenman, could recite their daughter’s favorite stories from halfway around the world.
“We video recorded books, like a couple of her favorite books, and I have them on my computer,” she said. “I’m going to put them on DVDs so in the morning time she can see Dad and she can read the book with him.”
Greenman has been deployed twice, both times to Iraq. This will be his first tour in Afghanistan. To get through the next year, Jennifer Greenman said she is going to work out at the gym, take a couple of classes and just try to keep Sophie preoccupied.
“She’s going to keep me busy,” she said, motioning toward Sophie.