Families Say Goodbye To Ohio National Guard’s 585th Company Bound For Iraq

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170 soldiers and their families said goodbye Thursday during a deployment ceremony in Marysville. The Ohio Army National Guard troops will soon travel to Iraq.

When the Ohio Army National Guard’s 585th Military Police Company entered the packed Marysville high school gymnasium, families and friends in the bleachers burst into wild applause.

During the ceremony which is known as the Call to Duty, 170 uniformed Guardsmen and Guardswomen listened to their commanders. And they heard from politicians, including Congresswoman, Mary Jo Kilroy.

“And I want to tell the members of the 585 military police company how much I admire and respect you; admire you for your patriotism and love of country; your sense of duty, your courage, your strength, your determination,” Kilroy said. They also heard from Ohio’s Adjutant General Gregory Wayt who gave a charge to the leaders of the 585th:

“I give them two missions. Number 1, take care of every soldier; Number 2, bring back every soldier right here one year from now,” Wayt said.

There’s a bit of irony in the call-up of the 585th. These 170 Ohioans will be arriving in Iraq as some 12,000 U.S. troops begin returning to the U.S., part of the so-called drawdown of American forces. Even though Staff Sergeant Jeremy Dennison is leaving behind a wife and three sons, he says he understands the need to be in Iraq.

“Even though they’re bringing the numbers down, there are still troops that have to be rotated out,” Dennison said. “Just like a change of shift at work. Even though they’re drawing down the numbers there are still certain places that have to be manned and you just can’t leave the same people there. We’re just going over there until it’s time for everybody to finish and leave.”

Sgt. Dennison has already been deployed overseas twice. Another member of the 585th is Keith Wade, II, who’s already served in Afghanistan. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Keith Wade were waiting to greet their son after the ceremony.

“My son will be deploying with the 585th,” Mrs. Wade said. “I’ve been through this once before. It does not get any easier. But I’m very proud of him and I’m his number one cheerleader.”

The Guardsman’s father says he’s not worried about his son’s safety.

“He’s courageous,” Wade says. “He’ll do what he wants to do and he’ll do what he has to do.”

The last combat troops are due to return to the U.S. in another 12 months though there will still be thousands of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq for years. The drawdown worries the elder Wade who served 26 years in the Army.

“They’re cutting down the forces and they shouldn’t be. We should stay strong in all the world but I figure it is a sign of weakness if you start pulling your troops back, so no, I don’t agree with the pull down of the troops,” Wade said.

But after additional training at Fort Dix in New Jersey, the 585th Military Police Company will arrive in Iraq. Their mission is to help train members of the Iraqi police force.