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February 1, 2005
photo Record-Eagle/Douglas Tesner
Sgt. Kathy Trudgeon cries as she hugs her husband before the 1071st Maintenance Unit departs Camp Grayling for Fort Bliss, Texas, and a tour of duty in Iraq.

Troops set to 'get the job done, and get home safely'

1071st off to Texas, then on to Iraq

Record-Eagle staff writer

      GRAYLING - Tears flowed, hugs were extra tight and kisses long as families bid goodbye to loved ones in the Michigan Army National Guard 1071st Maintenance Company, bound for training in Texas and then the war in Iraq.
      About 200 troops left Camp Grayling early Monday morning on four buses escorted by police, sheriff and fire vehicles. They were then to fly from an Alpena air base to Fort Bliss, Texas, for four to six weeks of mission-specific training prior to a 12-month tour of duty in Iraq.
      Spc. Josh Sheldon of Grayling held and kissed his 3-month-old girl, Josslyn, continually in the hour or so before the troops departed, as other family members surrounded him.
      "I'm worried, but he's going to get through it," said Sheldon's mother, Penny Alimenti of Grayling.
      The company's deployment "gives a chance for other troops to come home and reunite with their families. That's what we've got to think about," Alimenti said.
      Raquel Rondo and husband, Ryan, are both in the 1071st. Their three children, ages 3 to 10, likely won't see their parents for more than a year. The children will stay with Raquel's parents in Mio until the school year is completed, then with Ryan's parents in Caro, Raquel said.
      "It's very, very tough. A lot of tears have been shed," she said. "The kids are my life, and it's going to be hard on them. I wish I didn't have to go, but it's part of being in the Guard."
      "We'll be all right," she added. "There's a lot of love around."
      Kasey White made the five-hour drive from Marquette with her husband, Spc. Randall White, to see him off. She held Randall throughout the time before his departure, weeping and kissing him.
      "She's been crying for two weeks," he said. "The hardest part is being away from her. The rest of it will be cake. I know how to do my job."
      The 1071st is to work out of a base camp in Iraq, providing repair and maintenance of vehicles, heavy equipment and other components of a combat brigade, Army National Guard public affairs Capt. Aaron Jenkins said.
      Though the farewells were emotional, the troops' confidence was evident.
      "We're sad to leave our families, but we're ready to go," said Sgt. Paul Baker, who grew up in Grayling.
      "Let's get the job done and get home safely," he said.

For more photos from Iraq, visit our Staff Photo Galleries and view Douglas Tesner's "Call To Duty" gallery.

See related story: Soldiers coming back from Iraq

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