300 Fort Polk Soldiers Prepare for Deployment

March 21, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

For the past four years, we've seen images and heard stories of the war in Iraq.  Public support for the war is at an all-time low, and many Americans are requesting that troops be sent home.

But, in our area, hundreds of soldiers are gearing up to fight the battle overseas.  In just a few short days the 300 men that make up the 3-89 Cavalry in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk will be taking the drills they have practiced overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Army Specialist Paul Younker says, "I'm to the point now to where I'm like, it's about time. We've been hearing it for the past two years...you're going or you're not...it's every day we're just in the mind frame that it could happen in any month. This time it's really happening and it's a good feeling."

While it's Younker's first deployment, Iraq is familiar territory to Staff Sergeant Joe Capen.  "I was really excited the first time," says Capen, "the second time, a lot of the joy is out of it, all the newness has worn off. Now it's just going back and seeing how the country has progressed since the last time I was there."

The progress in Iraq has come under heavy scrutiny since the start of the war more than four years ago, but the mission of these soldiers in the 3-89 Cavalry has been unwavering through these years.  Sergeant Craig Collier says, "Soldiers enlist for God and country, but they fight for each other, and morale is high.  They want to go. This unit has been wanting to get in the game for a while-it's tough to be left on the bench when something is going on that you care about."

After two years of mission-essential tasks training, these soldiers say they are prepared for the physical battle and that it's the emotional one that is the most challenging.  Capen says, "There's a lot of differences overseas than there are here, and listening to the younger soldiers' needs and taking care of their needs overseas is tough."

The soldiers do not know how long they will be in Iraq, but deployments can last from a few months all the way up to a year and a half.

"A combat tour is and has been the defining experience of American soldiers since our revolution," says Collier, "Now it's your turn and you will be better men for it."

Because of security precautions, we do not know the exact date that these 300 soldiers will be deployed, but we're told that it should be within a week.  The soldiers do not know yet what their specific tasks will be when in Iraq, but they have been highly trained in how to react to a complex ambush, what to do if a suspicious vehicle gets too close, and how to handle a number of weapons.