Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The Montana National Guard unit headquartered in Havre departs today for Kuwait the second time for the unit in four years to provide support in the war against terrorism after spending a month training at Fort Lewis in Washington. “The training we received here has built up what we have learned over the past year in preparation for this deployment,” said Staff Sgt. Ann L. Kulzcyk of the 639th Combat Sustainment Supply Company. “That is a tribute to our home station trainers and their willingness to go above and beyond to share the knowledge they gained through their research and preparation.” The units of the company left their armories in Havre, Kalispell and Libby on Jan. 4 to travel to Fort Harrison near Helena, then on to Fort Lewis in Washington for final training in preparation for their year-long tour in Iraq. The company of about 120 soldiers will be providing supplying and refueling for up to 18,000 of the soldiers serving in Iraq. The duties will be essentially the same as the company provided when it was deployed there in 2004-05. While soldiers from the company said the busy time training in Washington has been excellent in preparing them, their families and friends in Montana are preparing to spend a year waiting for them to return. The 639th's current 12-month schedule overseas is much shorter than its first a 15-month deployment. On the home front Becky Hofeldt, who lives near Chinook with her husband, Spc. Tim Hofeldt, said knowing her husband will be gone for a year is hard, especially for their children, including her 8-yearold son Ryder and their daughters, 3-year-old Ryley and 9-month-old Kirbey. Becky Hofeldt is also pregnant with the couple's third child. “I think my Ryley is probably taking it the hardest,” Becky said. “She's a daddy’s girl really bad. It's really tough when she wakes up at three in the morning. That’s just like an everyday occurrence. We just don’t sleep around here.” Becky said she is proud of what her husband is doing, although she doesn’t think the children, especially Ryley realize what their father is doing to help them, the citizens of the United States and of the rest of the world, adding, “She just knows daddy got on a plane.” Tim was home this week on a fourday pass, before heading back to Fort Lewis for the departure overseas. “They said the second time (saying goodbye) shouldn’t be as hard, but I think it was harder,” Becky said. A year in preparation The soldiers spent nearly a year, off and on, preparing to deploy, part of an initiative to keep the soldiers closer to home for most of the time while readying for their tour. In its first deployment, the company left for Fort Harrison in November 2003 before traveling to Fort Carson, Colo., for pre-deployment training. The company then deployed overseas from January 2004 through March 200This time the training began in Havre last winter, with sessions held in Fort Harrison over the summer, followed by a shorter period about one month in Fort Lewis. “This training was very intense, demanding and very realistic,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ron Fanning, fuel platoon sergeant. The company commander, Capt. Jeremy Hedges, said the accumulative training worked together well. “The training we received in Helena was on the mark, and this training here in Fort.Lewis added to and reinforced that training,” he said. Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hansen also said the work accomplished in Montana helped get the company ready. “Kudos to our trainers in Montana,” Hansen said. “They prepared us for this training in a professional and excellent manner.” “I am amazed at how well we were prepared for this training. We represented Montana well,” said Spc. Chad Zuelke. Sgt. Adria Hinds said she believes the training has improved with experience over the last few years. “The trainers used knowledge they gained through their deployments to make ours better and more realistic,” she said. “This made me feel better trained this time around.” 1st Lt. Walter Woods, fuel platoon leader, said the varied makeup of the 639th also helped with the training. “Our platoon is unique in that it has soldiers from all three locations,” he said. “The experience of our squad leaders leaders allowed us to overcome some of the difficulties in building effective squad and team cohesion.” Preparing to wait Now all that is left for the friends and families of the soldiers to wait for their return, and to keep in touch as they can. The mailing address to contact the soldiers will not be available until later this month. Family and friends of the soldiers said at the departure on Jan. 4 that once that is available along with telephone and e-mail service, they will try to stay close to their soldiers as much as possible. In providing support from home for the troops, a local business has teamed up with a non-profit organization to help. Gary & Leo’s Fresh Foods is offering Hometown Soldier Care packages for $35 each. The packages, filled with treats, include mailing fees. United Way of Hill County is putting the packages together and mailing them to the soldiers, once they are in Iraq and have an APO address. The drive to raise funds for the packages is planned to continue through the end of February, only, for community members who wish to support this effort. United Way does not have access to the names of the soldiers deployed, unless family members provide them. To make sure a soldier with the 639th receives one of the packages, call Lorraine Verploegen, director of United Way of Hill County at 265- 4383, and add the soldier's name to the mailing list.5.