1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
February - 2003
Fort Hood soldiers mull deployment
KEVIN J. DWYER
Herald Staff Writer
Feb. 26, 2003
FORT HOOD As the deployment of the 4th
Infantry Division draws ever closer, the thoughts of many
soldiers have turned inward to what they may face in the weeks
and months ahead.
"There's a lot of stuff that people don't even know about that could happen to them over there," said Spc. Jason Pater, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment. "I'm more worried about what (Saddam's) got that we don't know about than getting shot. How can you prepare for what you don't know?"
Pfc. Keith Huffaker echoed Pater in his concerns about what Task Force Ironhorse may face if it goes to war.
"We've got the protective gear for it, it's just a scary thing to deal with," said Huffaker, 20. "I can handle bullets flying at me. I can not really see those, but I can hide behind something to get away from them. The other stuff kinda worried me a little bit."
Pater, 25, and Huffaker are both infantryman who have been in the Army for about two years each. At 25 years old, Pater is a bit older than the average age of the more than 750 soldiers in his battalion. According to Lt. Col. Mark Woempner, commander of 1-22 Infantry, his battalion averages about 20 years and seven months of age.
"As long as everybody does their job and follows what their leaders tell them, everybody will come back home all right," Pater said.
At the smallest level, the dismounted infantry teams that work with the Bradley Fighting Vehicles that carry them into battle, the soldiers seem confident in themselves and their mission.
"We're tight, we work together and our NCOs are good leaders," said Pfc. Steven Perry. "They square us away and we complement them by doing our jobs. I trust my guys."
Perry said that while he is confident in his abilities as a soldier, he is not arrogant about them. He said he believes that if a person thinks bad things will happen, he is already defeating himself.
The 19-year-old Perry, who has been preaching since age 13, said at first he had some difficulties reconciling what he believed in with being a soldier. Instinctively he turned to his Bible, and it was there he said that he was able to understand his current profession.
"I began to look at some of the warriors back in the day," Perry said. "David was an infantryman, he started out as an infantryman and became king of Israel. There are so many people in the Bible who fought not only for what they believed in, but also as a statement of faith.
"The same heart that they had, was the same heart that I had to get to go out there and be a winner, not a loser," Perry said.
For many of the soldiers, the most difficult part of the deployment since they finished loading their vehicles in late January is the waiting. Because of ongoing negotiations with the government of Turkey, the destination of TF Ironhorse has been in flux.
"I'm not really nervous, just anxious to go because they keep pushing back our date," said Spc. Ricky Fasulo, 21, a medic with the battalion. Although he said later, "It's pretty nerve-wracking being 21 and knowing what I'm going to do, but I think we'll do a good job."
Along with its date, another major aspect of the deployment the soldiers are pondering is its duration.
"Time. How long we're going to be gone," Pater said. "You never know how long it's going to be. I think six months will probably be right. It don't make no difference to me, I just came back from Korea and a deployment's a deployment."
While many of the soldiers have thought about dying during the deployment, the possibility is dismissed out of hand.
"I'm coming back, I'm not too worried about that," Huffaker said. "This isn't the first time my family's dealt with this. We've sent family off to Vietnam and Korea. My mom is taking it harder than anybody, but that's to be expected."
Perry, was the most confident of the soldiers, with good reason.
"Number one, I know there's a greater One inside of me," Perry said. "I have a relationship with God, so even if I were to pass away I know where I'd go. That's the only assurance I have my faith.
"Sometimes I do get some bad thoughts, but there's so many good thoughts that have been imparted to me, when the bad stuff comes around they outweigh them," Perry said.
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