Fifth deployment of the 371st Sustainment Brigade since 9/11
Members of the 371st Sustainment Brigade, a special troops battalion and the 137th Signal Company marched into a swell of appreciation and support.
Thursday morning in Springfield, family, friends, employers and military comrades packed the sanctuary and a fellowship hall of First Christian Church on Middle Urbana Road.
This is a Call To Duty Ceremony and Ohio National Guard Captain Neil Finlayson says both the soldiers and families benefit from this public display of community support.
“The support is awesome, family support , a lot of employers come together in Ohio. We have to have it or you won’t be successful overseas,” Capt. Finlayson explained.
Colonel Michael Burgette is a 30-year-career soldier in the Ohio National Guard. He’s the commander of the 371st Sustainment Brigade. His troops along with 2,500 already in theatre will handle a range of duties including logistics, warehousing, mail, transportation, IT and repairs.
As Colonel Burgette prepares to lead these units overseas, he said there’s one essential resource he’s taking.
“In my brigade headquarters, I have my own behavioral health staff. I have a psychologist who will deploy with us,” the colonel proudly announced. “It’ll help break down the stigma of mental health. Let them (troops) know it’s safe to come forward if they do have those stressors."
Sergeant Maggie Carpenter commands a unit of IT and communication specialists. This is her second time overseas. She said leaving behind family and friends is tough on every soldier. She also said deployments offer troops an opportunity to invest in themselves, something she’s emphasizing to her soldiers.
“On my first deployment, I planned on stopping at my associates degree. My academic advisor called me and I ended up taking full-time college there at night online. I ended up finishing my bachelor degree within a couple of months of coming home. And this time I plan to do the same thing for my master’s degree,” Sgt. Carpenter said. “My Bachelor is in Business Administration, I’m pursuing my MBA in Marketing.”
Sgt. Carpenter works full-time at Geauga Growth Partnership. She plans to retire from the Army in order to do more with this company.
The reality that soldiers can get hurt or killed during deployment is a thought Sgt. Carpenter’s mother, Bobette Carpenter, tries to push out of her mind. However, she takes comfort in a special tradition upheld by area military families happening every Friday and it quietly honors their soldiers.
“We wear red on Friday and it’s called Red Friday and it stands for Remember Everyone Deployed. It’s nice to go out even to the grocery store and see other people wearing red,” Bobette squeezed her daughter’s hand.
Vivette Allen is planning care packages for her grandson, Specialist Jalonne Allen. She’s still uneasy about him deploying but believes it’ll be a valuable life experience.
“That he comes back more mature, because you can only party and play so much,” Allen struggles to smile. “You’re taking a serious step and keep stepping in the right direction. And expand his education.”
Over the next few weeks, more than 300 soldiers will deploy overseas to the U.S. Central Command. For security reasons, their destination is confidential.