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US Army Troops Ready for Afghanistan Deployment

News of the Afghanistan buildup comes less than a month after a deadly shooting incident at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead and created additional grief.

Soldiers in formation at Fort Hood in Texas
Soldiers in formation at Fort Hood in Texas

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Sometime next year US Marines and soldiers will begin deployments to Afghanistan aimed at meeting President Obama's call for an additional 30,000 U.S. troops in that embattled nation. One place from which soldiers are likely to deploy is Fort Hood, in central Texas, the largest domestic US Army base.

It is often said that the army is a family and here at Fort Hood it is easy to see that it is also made up of families. Deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have put a burden on many soldiers and their families and that burden will increase next year with the plan to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Specialist Angela Zollicoffer's husband is in Afghanistan now, leaving her to care for their three daughters alone.

"I am just ready for the soldiers to come back, not just my husband, but all of them to come back and I wish that we did not have to go over there to Afghanistan," she said.

Her friend and fellow soldier Sherri Coons is more enthusiastic about the president's plan.

"Let's get it straight, let's get the Afghani people on their own two feet, just like we are doing with Iraq, get them up and going and on their feet and then let's pull out like he had planned," said Coons.

But some soldiers worry that the circumstances of the Afghan war may make their job there even more difficult and dangerous than Iraq.

Twenty-one-year-old Specialist Lamont Wright is one of them.

"They have more mountains in Afghanistan. This is a whole different kind of war, this is a whole different kind of terrain. When we were in Iraq it was flat land, we could see what was going on, but soldiers were still getting killed and wounded and families were worried about us," he said.  "Now, going to Afghanistan, this is a whole other ball game."

But Captain Chris Kelshaw has served in Afghanistan and he thinks the army can carry out President Obama's plan.

"The terrain - hey, I am an infantry officer. We get paid to move through rugged terrain," said Kelshaw.  "It is just a matter of adapting the way that you fight."

Some soldiers are also skeptical about President Obama's idea of setting a timetable for withdrawal in 18 months, but Captain Kelshaw says they misunderstand the plan.

"Eighteen months will begin a phased withdrawal, as I understand it, it is not that everbody will be gone. I am certain there is going to be a lingering advisory effort there," he said.  It is a journey, not a destination, is the best way of putting it."

The news of the Afghanistan buildup comes less than a month after the deadly shooting incident here at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead  and created additional grief. Army chaplain Ira Houck, who coordinates activities for all religious groups at Fort Hood, says soldiers are resilient, but they sometimes need support.

"We are consciously aware of the needs of our soldiers in this time of grief, having recovered from this November 5 shooting, but also the continuing demand on our soldiers to deploy and fulfill our obligation to this great nation," said Houck.

Houck says the army has resources to help soldiers and their families as they are separated by deployments.

"They have on-site counseling and counselors here we can refer to and network with, so there is a whole vast array of resources that our families have now,' he added.

This week several units returned from overseas deployments, much to the joy of their friends and families. But joyous as the returns might be,the soldiers know they may soon have to deploy again, leaving behind loved ones as they carry out their duty to the commander in chief and the nation.
 

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