Guam soldiers prepare for Afghan deployment
Guam - For the last 18 months, nearly 600 soldiers from the Guam Army National Guard have been undergoing training and preparing for the largest deployment the Guard has ever had. 588 Guardsmen will be leaving in the next several weeks to Afghanistan where they will be on a security mission.
Sergeant Josephine Taitingfong is geared up to go and has painstakingly made every effort to get things in order for her two kids before she leaves. Having been deployed once before, she says it gave her confidence for this second one. "As a woman, I can do it on my own two feet. I can take care and support my children. It's only made me stronger, so now that I'm deploying, my kids are ready for it," she said. "They're looking forward to the positive things; when Mom comes home. We're gonna do this, we're gonna do that."
Lieutenant Tess Moreno has been in the guard for the last seven years and knew one day she would eventually get the call. The Oceanview Middle School teacher said she waited until the last minute to break the news to her students but telling her family wasn't as easy. "I think when I got the e-mail that I was going, initially I cried - I don't even know why I cried. I wasn't scared. I think it was just all the emotions that come with the anxiety, the fear, leaving here not knowing what to expect there," the officer recalled.
Like many of her fellow soldiers, Moreno is struggling with a wave of emotions that come with a deployment, not so much about what she will experience in Afghanistan, but for what she is leaving behind here at home, her family, husband, and 19-year-old daughter. She continued, "At any age I still think you need your mom growing up you just need your mom. And that's one of my things, I feel anxious about not being there for her."
It's a similar feeling for Specialist Clint Materne. In 2009 he was deployed to Afghanistan and says it was a good experience. "I was well prepared," he said. "I had no kids at the time. I was pretty excited. I had a girlfriend. She knew what was going on and I had to do what I had to do."
But going back to a combat zone is much harder now. Materne married his girlfriend and the two have two young children, saying, "How much harder does it make this deployment? Like, a thousand times harder. I'm ready for the deployment, but I'm scared about my kids. I mean, they're situated; our house is good to go. It's just I've never been away from my kids for a long period of time."
Trying to deal with the separation, Materne says he's trying to spend all of his time with his family. He said, "I use all the training that they're giving us now. It helps a lot for family separation, plus all the P.T. and stuff. It's good preparation for out there."
For Private Matt Cruz, he's been in the Guard for less than a year. In fact, he just returned from basic training three months ago. "It was really hard, 'cause that moment when you come home and you're hoping she still remembers you, and you're hoping she still calls you 'Daddy'," he said of his child. "And leaving again is really at a crucial point, because I'm leaving right before her birthday."
Cruz says separation from his daughter is going to be the most difficult part of the deployment, saying, "When I get back she's gonna get something really big!" His family has been extremely supportive. Doing-up holidays and special events bigger than normal creating memories for Cruz when he is deployed. "Then my dad, I can see in his eyes. He's really proud of me. He's former military, too," he said.