Orange County News

Calif. National Guard troops deploy for Iraq

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The first waves of troops left from the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base on Sunday morning.

The troops will make a stop in Fort Hood, Texas for about six to eight weeks to train before heading to Iraq. A total of about 300 California Army National Guard troops will have deployed by Tuesday.

"I feel happy, I feel sad. I'm going to miss my family," said Calif. Army National Guard Sgt. Alexander Martinez. "But I'm mostly optimistic. I want to see what the future holds. I'm just proud to serve my country."

Martinez explained that the troops being deployed in the next few days will be taking the place of the many who will be returning back to the U.S. from Iraq.

The battalion, dubbed Task Force Long Knife, will provide aviation support to military personnel across Iraq.

This deployment comes after the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, said that Iraq's military is ready and able to take over security operations as American combat forces prepare to withdraw.

The soldiers will be gone for about a year, and many agree that the hardest part will be leaving their loved ones behind.

"You hope you're as prepared for it as you'd like to be, but (my wife) will have to deal with anything that comes up after I go, and that's where the apprehension comes in," said SPC Charles Koffman as he held his daughter in his arms.

"We had a nice cry a couple of nights ago," said Koffman's wife, Cheryl. "We're trying to be strong for my daughter."

On Saturday night, all 300 guard troops were formally ordered to active duty.

Dangers still loom ahead. This weekend, at least 69 people were killed in bombings and shootings in Iraq.

"He's with a good group of guys," said a teary-eyed Maureen Grzywa, wife to a soldier being deployed. "They're like my family, and I know they're going to have each other's backs."

The California Army National Guard is made up of about 20,000 soldiers from the California National Guard, the Army and the U.S. National Guard.

AP and CNS contributed to this report.

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iraq, u.s. troops, orange county news
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