COLUMBUS (WCMH)–Nearly 300 Ohio soldiers are headed overseas to support Operation Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield.
The men and women of the Ohio National Guard deployed this week held Call To Duty ceremonies for the 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment and Company B, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment.
It will be the first time many of these soldiers are deployed overseas. As is the case with any deployment, stress can be high for families and the soldiers as they prepare for a year-long separation. However, this particular deployment carries additional stress due to the global pandemic from COVID-19, according to LTC. John Whitney, the 137th’s commander.
“We have endured unprecedented times dealing with COVID-19 and our pending deployment these past few months,” said Whitney.
During his remarks at the ceremony he spoke of anxiety and stress, and he also said that the men and women would make a positive change in the world. Additional remarks were given by Col. Daniel Shank, Assistant Adjutant General and Commander of the Ohio Army National Guard.
“What you’re about to do, won’t be easy,” he told the soldiers. “It won’t be easy to be separated from your families and your loved ones,” he said. “At the point where things start to become routine, it won’t be easy to maintain your professionalism and your focus. But I’ll tell ya’ you will. You will maintain your professionalism and your focus. Why? Because you are disciplined warriors in the finest tradition,” said Shank.
Acknowledging the proud tradition of the National Guard was a key component of the Call To Duty ceremony. Shank pointed out that these are difficult and precarious times, and that they would not be alone. Their families and loved ones, would not be alone either. With resources in place for families state-side and soldiers overseas, the men and women of the Ohio National Guard could allow for that anxiety to be eased, according to Captain Jason Brand, a member of the command staff being deployed.
This will be Brand’s second deployment. He previously served in Kosovo.
“It’s gonna be real, and it’s gonna be challenging,” said Brand when asked how difficult this will be for soldiers deploying for the first time.
He explained they have been well trained and they will rise to the occasion.
“Our families trust us, our employers trust us, our nation trusts us… and with that trust I feel that we’ll overcome all of this adversity,” said Brand. “At the end of the day we’re in it together, not just overseas, but with our teams and families that we’re leaving behind and that really is what curbs that anxiety and allows us to focus on the mission.”
Brand’s wife stays behind to care for their two daughters. Other soldiers have said goodbye to family as well. Warrant Officer Joanna Bradshaw and her family have been through this before, even though it is her first deployment. With six brothers and sisters one of which has deployed before, they know what to expect.
Bradshaw is one of two women being deployed that will be piloting overseas. She flies UH-60m’s, commonly referred to as Blackhawks.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I really can’t describe it,” said Bradshaw. “I’m very nervous for my first deployment, but also incredibly excited.”
She talked about having a big family that supports her is helping with her anxiety as well.
Specialist Willie Hoyle’s family is familiar with how this all works too. His father served in the Navy, and his grandfather served in the Army. His brother currently serves in the Army. All of them, and his mother who lives in Texas had an opportunity to watch the Call To Duty ceremony via the internet. For Hoyle, COVID-19 had a silver lining.
“If anything COVID-19 gave us more time at home with our families, more time to spend with our loved ones,” said Hoyle.
Hoyle may end up working with Bradshaw, as he is a specialist in operations. Bradshaw explained how important it is that everyone is on the same page. Hoyle referred to pilots like Bradshaw make sure they can be in excellent communication with soldiers like him while on missions.
“Definitely nervous, but also really confident,” said Hoyle. “There’s the nervousness that comes with going overseas for the first time, but at the same time, whenever you have the most faith that you could possibly have in the team you’re deploying with you kind of get a sense of calmness that you’re not really worried about what the outcome is gonna be, it’s more or less the unknown’s.”
They say they are ready. Now it is time to go. Godspeed and safe return, soldiers. We’ll be waiting for you to come home.