Army Says "Iron Soldiers" Among The Best - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

06/23/05

Army Says "Iron Soldiers" Among The Best

The Army says they're some of the best trained National Guardsmen in the country and they were trained right here in South Mississippi.

Guardsmen from 31 states are now ready to take on terrorists in Iraq after five months at Camp Shelby. On Thursday, their families, friends and leaders said goodbye and wished them Godspeed.

Among the thousands of faces, Kenneth Decook searched for just one - his son. The younger Kenneth is a New Hampshire National Guardsman about to head to Iraq

"Sheer terror of what could be," said Decook. "As well as completely proud of each one of the guys that are here."

The nickname "Iron Soldiers" comes from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division's long history as fierce fighters. Military leaders say the 4,500 soldiers on their way to fight insurgents have raised the bar.

Adjutant General Jessica Wright of Pennsylvania told the troops "From 31 states, you were transformed in to the best trained, most equip, most intimidating force this country has every presented. You are America's brigade."

The commander also spoke.

"We will defeat the terrorist 7000 miles away so we do not have to face them in our hometowns here in America," Col. John Gronski said.

Now that America has called them duty, the National Guardsmen say they can draw strength from the support of friends and family.

"I'm the only one from New Hampshire that had somebody come down, so at least somebody is here to see us off," Army National Guardsman Kenneth Decook, II said.

During the yearlong separation of father and son, the two Kenneths decided they'll each carry the other's cross.

The elder Decook said his cross was blessed by the late Pope John Paul, II.

"It allows me to be close to him on a daily basis and him close to me. He was our only child and it's certainly special to send him off to preserve freedom for the world. It's also special that he would be with me at all times, because he'll be in my thoughts and prayers every minute of the day."

Pennsylvania's governor was also at the ceremony. Most of the members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division come from the keystone state.

by Danielle Thomas

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