Over 200 people attended the fourth of seven town hall meetings hosted by the Iowa National Guard Tuesday evening in Waterloo. The meetings are designed to try and let family, friends and communities know what to expect when nearly three-thousand Iowa Guard soldiers deploy to Afghanistan later this year.
Julie Balk and her husband drove an hour from West Union to find out what is ahead for their 20-year-old son. She says they wanted to find out as parents what their responsibilities and obligations are. Balk says their son is an adult, but is a full time student and still on their health insurance, and they want to know what happens with that. She says the also want to know how to contact him, if they have to go through the Red Cross. Balk says they are proud of their son’s military involvement, but are apprehensive because this is his first deployment.
Command Sergeant Major, Craig Berte of Cedar Falls has been deployed before, and has come up with a way to help his wife and five children deal with this deployment. “I talk about it with my children in terms of just missing a whole year. So one thing I’ve been able to talk to with my kids is I’ll miss a certain grade…so I think that kind of puts it in a time perspective for them,it helps them understand how long a year is,” Berte says. He says he deployed for a year one other time when his children were younger and they have no recollection of it at all.
Colonel Tom Staton, will command the 2nd Brigade combat team that’s being deployed. Staton says family members should find someone that they can talk with and share their thoughts and concerns while their soldier is deployed. Staton says families are always going to have things come up, and there’s no way to keep that from happening. He says it’s important if something happens that the family knows where to go for help.
The soldiers will leave in July for several weeks training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, and then will undergo more training in California before shipping out to Afghanistan at the end of October. The final three town hall meetings are scheduled for Des Moines Thursday, May 4th in Cedar Rapids and May 6th in Davenport.