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Back to Iraq
Fort Stewart soldiers begin departing for another tour
Captt. Jonathan Hitchcock of Richmond Hill tightens the straps on a backpack while his wife, Brandy, waits with their children Landyn, Zoey and Christian. - photo by Denise Etheridge

About 400 soldiers from Headquarters Headquarters Company, 26th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Heavy Combat Team bid family and friends a final farewell Tuesday before deploying to Iraq for the next 12 months. This is the brigade’s fourth deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade hugged and kissed children, spouses, parents and grandparents before boarding buses to Hunter Army Airfield where they caught a plane to Kuwait, the first leg of the brigade’s deployment.

"This (process) is what we call ‘Command and Control’," said Col. Mike Jason, company operations officer.

Jason explained during Command and Control soldiers

are issued the guns they will possess throughout their deployment, don their helmets and vests and stand for numerous roll calls.

"We’ll have three to four flights a day for six to seven days," he said. "Everybody goes to Kuwait first. Our soldiers get acclimated and receive more training there. Then everything goes north; it’s all about planes, trains and automobiles."

The colonel said he also will deploy later this week once 51 percent of "the force" is deployed.

While some soldiers waited in line to receive their weapons, others checked and rechecked duffel bags, chatted with friends and relatives, comforted small children and made last minute cell phone calls.

"We’re about as ready as you can be," said army spouse Michelle Bayley. "This kind of feels surreal."

Bayley and her 13-year old daughter, Meagan, were saying goodbye to husband and dad Spc. Chad Bayley.

"There’s never enough time (before deploying)," Spc. Bayley said. "This is my first deployment with the Army."

Spc. Bayley is prior service Navy. He and his wife have six children and two grandchildren.

The couple’s grown son, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Rusk, 24, just returned from his second tour to Afghanistan.

"He’s now assigned to Guam," Michelle Bayley said. "He may be getting a visit from mom before too long."

Brandy Hitchcock of Richmond Hill held her three young children close while her husband, Capt. Jonathan Hitchcock, tightened the straps on a backpack.

"This is my husband’s second deployment," Hitchcock said.

The young mother says she will have much to do while her husband serves overseas.

"They (children) keep me pretty busy," she said. "They’re all in sports."

Hitchcock said she intends to become involved in family activities on post as well.

"We always get letters from the FRG (Family Readiness Group)," she said.

Sgt. Timothy Cooper’s father Richard Cooper and grandparents Marvin and Linda Cooper travelled from Calhoun, Ga., to see him off.

Cooper said his family, which includes his wife and son, are good about staying in touch with him.

"Granny is real good about sending letters," he said. "She writes about six or seven pages a letter. So, I’ll know what’s going on here at all times."

Cooper is deploying for the third time, but this is the first opportunity his father and grandparents have had to see him off.

"We’ll also send him care packages," Linda Cooper promised.

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