View Full Version : Headed back to the war

01-10-07, 08:50 AM
Headed back to the war

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2007 - 08:22 PM

Captain Jake Dalton turned 30 Monday. He celebrated by training for his third mission to Iraq. As part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team stationed at Fort Stewart, Dalton is part of a deployment of 4,000 soldiers set to be complete by the end of January.

About 500 members of the 1st Brigade have already left for overseas and those like Dalton will be leaving in groups of several hundred throughout the rest of the month. Just one year ago, he came home from his second tour in Iraq.

"This will be my third trip to Iraq in support of the global war on terrorism," Dalton tells me. "We're going to the Al Anbar province where we'll be attached to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary force."

Because of that, Dalton and others took part in joint operations with the Marines, flying in what the Marines refer to as a "tiltrotor aircraft" that they say lands and takes off like a helicopter, but has the speed of an airplane. According to a fact sheet provided , it's called the "V-22 Osprey" it gives U.S. forces the versatility of a helicopter, but with the speed, range and altitude only a fixed-wing airplane can provide.

"While they're (the 1st Brigade) over there, there's a good chance my squadron could deploy to Iraq and in the event we do, these soldiers are already going to have a leg up on familiarity with the aircraft," says Captain Danny Cohlmeyer, and Aviation Safety Officer with the Marine Tiltrotor Squadron 263. "The Osprey's got to increase the survivability because of its range and the airspeed and the ability to climb out of harms way are the reason."

Although there's no assurance the 1st Brigade will ever see an Osprey while stationed in Iraq, most seemed to enjoy the training.

"You can never be as trained as well as you'd like to be," Captain Dalton told me.

Dalton also showed me a picture of his little boy, Thomas whose first birthday will be in April. Dalton will miss the party and the birthday cake. "You know I wake up every morning and try to spend as much time with him as I can so it's not going to be too easy but we've got all those new high speed video cameras and everything so hopefully I'll be able to watch him grow in the next year," Captain Dalton tells me.

Colonel John Charlton, the commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Unit says leaving family is one of the worst parts of any deployment. " It's always hard to leave the family there's just no other way to put it just tears you apart when you have to say good bye to your family for a long time and that never gets easier," he says.

"But I think the soldiers really are focused on the mission," Colonel Charlton tells me. "They know it's important. They know this is a critical time in Iraq's history and in the United State's history so we are very focused on our mission and we're going over there to get the job done and then hopefully not have another combat brigade team follow us, that would be a great thing."

As far as a possible surge in troops and extended stays in Iraq, Captain Dalton tries to think only about the job and the mission. "From my perspective I've got a fairly specific job to do," he tells me. "And my primary mission is to focus on taking care of my soldiers for security and then training up the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police to help them make provide security to that piece of ground."

"As long as I can train the Iraqis to take care of themselves, that's my mission and that I don't see it as open ended, there are definite stepping points that I can achieve," Captain Dalton says.

Later he shows me the picture of his son again. "That was his first attempt at eating peas," he smiles.

Yes, there will be a lot of things that this soldier will miss and first words he will never hear. But Dalton says he and others believe they are ultimately fighting for their families.

'You know people who take issue with the diplomatic side of the war have to understand that as a soldier, I don't make policy."