The “Battle Boars” of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, continued an Army tradition Wednesday with a ceremonial casing of the unit’s colors prior to deploying to Afghanistan in a few days.
Lt. Col. Mike Jason, commander of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, said the significance of the ceremony was directly related to the unit’s colors symbolically representing the unit and its proud history. The colors carry with it the awards and streamers earned from previous combat missions, he said.
“The 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment ‘Battle Boars’ are ready for this mission,” said Col. Douglas Cardinale, 2nd HBCT commander, as he explained that this mission would be different than previous missions to Iraq. “You are the first ground forces to represent the 3rd ID in Afghanistan. When our nation speaks, we respond.”
Cardinale thanked all the units and individuals responsible for helping the heavy infantry battalion train up for its new light infantry mission.
He said he especially wanted to thank the families for their support, then he asked for their continued support.
Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Hitch of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, assisted Jason with the casing ceremony. Then Jason expressed his own gratitude to the families of the soldiers about to deploy with him and his battle buddy, Hitch.
“Our families make it easier to focus on the mission at hand,” he said. “Our training has been fast and furious for 90 days — a lot like cramming for a final exam. We’re more focused now on that kid with a rifle and a rucksack and more confident in the skills of our boots on the ground.”
The battalion commander said that when he learned about the mission from his commander, he pulled the unit together in the battalion motor pool and personally told them.
A few days later, he talked to the spouses. He said he was awed by the spirit of his soldiers and their families.
Jason, who has deployed to Kosovo and then Iraq three times, said he is confident in the experience of his officers and noncommissioned officers, nearly all of whom have previous combat experience.
While the soldiers trained for their upcoming mission, Capt. Chris Rice, the chaplain for the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, said he met with first-time deployers and their families, giving them the tools they need to prepare for the nine-month separation.
One such tool was a Coin and Covenant Ceremony conducted for married couples. This ceremony, he said, is a time when military couples renew their vow of fidelity to each other.
“I always try to make myself available to spouses,” said Rice, who previously served with the “Battle Boars” in Kirkuk, Iraq. “My cellphone number and email address is posted all over the battalion area.
“I try to explain to the spouses who haven’t experienced a deployment the details about the training their husband is going through, so they’ll understand he’s prepared for this mission. I also want them to understand the heart and mind of the (battalion) commander, so they’ll have confidence in the unit’s leadership.”
One of the soldiers and spouses Rice had an opportunity to council about deploying for the first time was his own chaplain’s assistant, Spc. Ruben Vega.
A graduate of Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pa., Vega had just completed his initial training when he arrived at Fort Stewart in mid-December, only to learn he was deploying to Afghanistan less than two months later.
“At first I wondered how to let my wife know about it in a way she’d better accept the news,” Vega said. He and his wife have three children, two girls and a boy, ages 4, 7 and 9. “They wish I didn’t have to go, but they support me.”
Seasoned Army couples like Sgt. Benjamin and Courtney Whitehouse don’t find it easy facing another separation.
Whitehouse, who already has deployed twice to Iraq, said he’s excited about going to a new theater of operation and working as a light infantryman, but his wife is a little more apprehensive.
“It’s kind of harder,” she admitted. “Because it’s a different (theater), you don’t know what to expect. But I’m confident in him and his training.”
She said they’ve been married three years but laments that they didn’t have a formal wedding ceremony.
With a 2-year-old son, Bryce, and another baby due in June, she’s already planning for them to renew their wedding vows with a “real wedding” when her husband gets back in October.
The couple participated in the recent Coin and Covenant Ceremony with Rice, just as they did before his last deployment.
Special guests at the casing ceremony included 3rd ID Commander Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams; 3rd ID Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson; Col. Christopher Hughes, 3rd ID deputy commanding general — support; Col. Roger Cloutier, 3rd ID deputy commanding general – maneuvers; Col. Leopoldo Quintas, 3rd ID chief of staff; and 2nd HBCT Command Sgt. Maj. Jefferson Moser.