By Molly Priddy, 11-05-12
||Caption: Capt. Erik Oberg, front center, stands with fellow members of the Montana Army National Guard’s 495th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion at the conclusion of a deployment ceremony at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kalispell. The battalion was scheduled to leave Montana on Nov. 6, on its way to a mobilization station at Fort Hood, Texas. Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
On Nov. 5, the Flathead Valley men and women of the 495th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion gathered with their families and friends at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kalispell and said they were ready for active duty overseas.
These 60 Montana Army National Guard soldiers will head to Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 6 for six weeks of training and then a year in Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They will provide sustainment and logistical command support to the theater of operation, or, as they like to say, “the muscle behind the punch.”
The deployment ceremony was full of anticipation, pride and sadness from those who are leaving and those who must remain behind and wait for the soldiers’ return.
For Staff Sgt. Dan Reese, 45, the deployment is a bittersweet mix of excitement to serve his country, tempered by the knowledge that he will be away from his teenage daughters – Abigail, 14, and Jilian, 15 – for a year.
“This is what we train for,” Reese said. “For me to actually do what I’ve been training for is an honor and a privilege.”
Reese is the battalion’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear NCO, and also leads the battalion’s electronic warfare division. He spent part of the late 1980s and early 1990s with the U.S. Marine Corps in Southeast Asia and was part of Operation Desert Storm.
Now, as he’s headed to Afghanistan, Reese said he is confident in the 495th CSSB’s ability and professionalism, noting that many of the soldiers hold part- or full-time jobs within the community as well as serving in the National Guard.
Nov. 6 marks the third tour of duty for Sgt. First Class Michael Hardesty, who spent two tours with the 163rd Infantry Regiment in Iraq. Hardesty serves in the S3 Section, overseeing the convoys that supply the outlying bases with commodities.
The support battalion is an intricate piece of the military puzzle overseas, Hardesty said, because if it doesn’t do its job correctly, that affects the rest of the troops down the chain.
“Every job is important, whether you’re a mechanic or a cook,” Hardesty said.
His wife Kim and daughter Dani, 10, were at the ceremony as well. Kim said her family has gotten used to the routine of deployment, and they just have to “roll with it” when the time comes. Kim’s son Matthew, 23, is also serving in Afghanistan.
As the youngest member of the battalion, Zachary Malinak, 21, said he has been ready to deploy since finishing basic training a year ago. He was promoted from private to specialist the day before the ceremony. He said he isn’t quite sure what his job will be in Afghanistan, but he asserted that he would do it well.
“I’m excited to go,” Malinak said.
His parents, Jeff and Maureen, of Hot Springs, said they are proud of this new chapter in their son’s life.
“He’s going on an adventure,” Maureen said. “We’re really proud of him.”
This is the second deployment for the 495th, with the first occurring when the transportation battalion went to support Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Maj. Gen. Matt Quinn, who now serves as the adjutant general for Montana, led the battalion at that time as the lieutenant colonel, or LTC.
During the ceremony, Quinn said he remembered the first call to duty for the 495th nine years ago, and assured the soldiers’ families that they have been properly trained for this assignment.
“This is not an easy time as we send our family members off to war,” Quinn said. “We have done all we can to prepare these soldiers to go to war and to come back safe.”
He told the soldiers they are well trained and well led.
“Be proud of what you’ve done,” Quinn said. “Carry on the tradition of Montana warriors before you.”
The 495th CSSB’s battalion commander LTC Kevin Settle gave the history of the Kalispell guard, dating back to the militia in 1867 and the official creation of the National Guard in 1887.
It was called into action for World War I and II, and once again in 2003. Settle said he understood families’ mixed feelings about sending their loved ones off in the late stages of a long war, and that those who serve have “patriotism of the highest order.”
“We will live up to this great legacy and we look forward to your warm welcome when we return home one year from today,” Settle said.
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