Myers Wishes Guard Brigade 'Godspeed' in Iraqi Deployment
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., Feb. 12, 2004 "We'll be good. We'll be careful, and we'll be back," was what Army Brig. Gen. Danny H. Hickman promised the thousands of family members gathered at the Crown Coliseum here today.
Hickman will lead the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade a part of the North Carolina National Guard to Iraq next month.
The brigade is the first complete National Guard combat brigade to deploy since the end of World War II. The brigade also has soldiers from West Virginia, New York, Minnesota, Maryland, Illinois, Alabama, Texas and California. It will be part of the 1st Infantry Division, which will relieve the 4th Infantry Division in the northern part of the country.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley participated in the deployment ceremony for the brigade. The soldiers and their families filled the Crown Center to the rafters.
Myers was especially pleased to see the families. "This is terrific," Myers said as he turned and motioned to the families. "This is what service to your country is all about. It's not just about (the soldiers). This is a family and a community affair, and you have shown yourselves well.
"It's a great scene," he continued. "It's the way it is in America, and we're lucky for that."
Myers then addressed the more than 4,000 troops of the Old Hickory Brigade. He told them that the threat to America, its allies and interests is grave. "I fully believe that our country has never been threatened as it is right now by terrorism," Myers told the soldiers. "You've got to go back to World War II where the freedoms we stand for have been so directly threatened. In many cases, the only things that stand between terrorism and our freedoms is you. This is a very important mission."
Myers also told the soldiers what the nation expects of them. He said it is a given that the country expects them to be courageous and to "take the fight to the enemy."
But as citizen-soldiers, the country expects more from them the chairman said. "We expect you to take your experiences with your communities and take that into Iraq as well," he said. "There's a lot of mentoring (of Iraqis) that needs to be done. There's a lot of lessons about how to live free, how to support democracy, how to build communities, how everybody can work together for a common good."
He said these are lessons that the volunteers of the National Guard know intuitively, and they will be important lessons to teach the Iraqi people.
The brigade, Myers said, also will take with them what every American brings: the character and compassion that are trademarks of the nation. He said these qualities are "just as important as being the fierce warriors you've been trained to be."
The general said that being National Guardsmen citizen-soldiers may give the brigade an edge. "You are part of the citizenry, and that is something you should be very proud of," Myers said.
The chairman said the families bear most of the deployment's burden. He said the issues families must deal with "are endless."
The chairman said he and his wife, Mary Jo who also was at the ceremony fully believe "that families serve, too. The families also sacrifice." He assured the soldiers and their families that the military will do all it can to help the families as they cope in the coming year.
Myers thanked the employers of the Guardsmen. He said the Defense Department is working to provide more predictability for the Guardsmen.
Then the plain-spoken Myers turned to the soldiers and became almost poetic. "In the largest sense, this is your moment in history to make a difference," he said. "All we do is the same thing you did when you raised your right hand and swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
"You have this wonderful opportunity to change the course of history. And you're going to do it," the chairman continued. "You are going to give hope to 25 million people who, if they didn't have you, wouldn't have that hope. You're going to give hope to millions of Americans who wouldn't be near as secure if you weren't over there on the front lines of this war on terror. I'm proud to stand in uniform with you.
"From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate the talents you bring to this fight and we wish you Godspeed, and a year from now we'll be standing here welcoming you home."