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Families must adjust to soldiers’ deployment

Soldiers of the Army National Guard’s Detachment 2 of the 155thInfantry Battalion of the 1-155th Separate Armored Brigade deploytoday for Camp Shelby, and possibly Iraq, and morale in the unit ishigh despite the dangers and heartaches.

“I think morale is very good,” said First Sgt. Johnnie Bines,the unit’s senior noncommissioned officer. “We don’t see anyevidence of morale so far.”

Second Lt. Chad Chauvin, a platoon leader, agreed. “Morale isvery important,” he said. “When morale is high, I believe nearlyany mission can be successful. I see us already establishing thebond that will be necessary for us to work as a successfulteam.”

Other bonds will be tested for the first time when the soldiersare separated from their families by time, distance andconflict.

When the unit was alerted of the mobilization in May, Sgt.Zachary Smith and his fiancee moved up their marriage plans. Hemarried Holly Smith, a cosmetologist at Smart Style, July 31.

“We were going to get married later, but we decided to do itbefore I had to leave,” the sergeant said.

Smith’s situation is typical of that many soldiers, said StaffSgt. Lucius Washington, the units readiness noncommissioned officerin charge. Other soldiers are leaving with pregnant wives and willbe deployed when their sons or daughters are born. Single parentsare leaving their children with former spouses or grandparents tocare for.

“It’s affecting a lot of families,” Washington said. “I thinkthe hardest thing for everyone is going to be leaving theirfamilies behind.”

Smith shrugged off any concerns he may have about leaving hisnew wife at home while he goes off to a hostile region.

“It’s part of the job,” he said. “When I joined, Sept. 11 hadalready happened, so I knew it was a possibility. She did too.We’ve talked about it to prepare for this.”

Sgt. Charlie Lewis, a Bradley turret and light wheeled vehiclemechanic, is single, but his extended family will be caring for hischildren while he is gone.

It is a duty they are happy to perform, he said, but they worryabout him. Their worry is often in the form of good-naturedteasing, but he said he feels their underlying concern.

“My family doesn’t really want me to go,” he said. “They’ve beengiving me a hard time about it.”

Lewis, who deployed to Bosnia in 2001, said he doesn’t expectthe experience to be nearly the same.

“This will be more intense,” he said. “Bosnia was pretty muchpeace-keeping. We’ll be doing more infantry work this time.”

Sergeant First Class Clois Wilson, motor sergeant, was among 68soldiers of the 155th Infantry Battalion who deployed to CampShelby earlier this year for a month of leadership training. Thetraining is nearly the same as what the soldiers will see there inthe next three months.

“We’ve already been through it, so we’ll be helping them throughtheir training,” he said.

The training is a refresher course on basic military skills,such as navigation, first aid and weapon requalifications, but alsoincludes some mission-specific tasks.

“There’s a lot of convoy operations and perimeter defenses,”Wilson said.

The unit will receive new orders, probably to Iraq if thesituation there remains unchanged, when members complete theirtraining at Camp Shelby.