Deployment ceremony wishes soldiers a safe trip to Afghanistan

By Jennifer Wheeler

Dressed in their camouflage uniform, the soldiers marched into Assembly Hall where family members, friends and veterans hoped all would return again next year.

The 33D Brigade Combat Team Task Force Phoenix VIII was honored at Assembly Hall on Sunday for their year-long departure to Afghanistan, beginning Monday. The task force will leave for Fort Bragg, a military base in North Carolina, on Oct. 2 for additional training before traveling to Afghanistan.

This is the largest deployment since World War II, said Lt. Col. Tim Franklin.

Of the 3,000 soldiers, whose units are located across Illinois, about 200 soldiers were honored Sunday.

The purpose of the task force is to train and mentor the Afghanistan National Army and Afghanistan National Police, Franklin said. He added that the plan is for the soldiers to return home once the country’s forces are able to stabilize themselves without the help of U.S. troops.

Many are feeling the emotional toll of the deployment.

“I’m scared. I don’t want him to get hurt in any way,” said Eve Bowman, daughter of Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Bowman who will be heading overseas with the task force. “The ceremony was emotional. I was crying. It was nice to see people come out and support them. I try not to think about it but it’s in your face. It wasn’t too fun.”

Bowman said it will be difficult to leave his daughter the second time around, after being sent to Afghanistan from 2004 to 2005. He said he would miss experiencing his daughter’s high school milestones, time spent with his family and the students he teaches in Plainfield, Ill.

As the brigade heads abroad, Bowman encourages soldiers to depend on other soldiers for support.

“It’s a team effort that gets it done,” Bowman said. “It doesn’t matter what rank you are. No matter what we do, always have a buddy next to you. We work to get it done, to get it done right.”

At the end of the ceremony, the officers trooped the line, a formal tradition where high ranked leaders shake the soldiers’ hands and wish them a safe trip, which symbolizes the force’s belief that they are prepared for the mission.

“We are going to come home with a job well done,” Enyart said.