Capt. Timothy Zetterwall, 70th Transportation Company commander, says that his Soldiers understand he is not just leaving behind a rucksack as he heads downrange.
Captain Zetterwall has a wife and an infant son he is leaving behind and is dealing with the same personal issues as his Soldiers.
“For me, the hardest part of getting deployed is being a new father and knowing that you are leaving your son who is not even two months old and you are going to miss him walking, saying his first words, crawling and those types of things,” Captain Zetterwall said during a farewell gathering for family and friends of the 70th Transportation Company. “Those are things that I am just going to have to deal with.”
Members of the 70th TC – a subordinate unit of the 28th Transportation Battalion that falls under the 37th Transportation Command – met in the gym at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim to say their goodbyes to their loved ones and friends late Tuesday night. The Soldiers were awaiting a 2 a.m. bus ride to the Deployment Processing Center in Kaiserslautern and then an early-morning flight from Ramstein AFB to Kuwait.
About half of the company, or 72 Soldiers, deployed Wednesday, and 73 more Soldiers were set to fly out Monday, all of which marks the first 2005 deployment of a 21st Theater Support Command unit.
The Soldiers will be relieving the 308th Transportation Company in Kuwait and will remain there for at least the next 12 months, according to Captain Zetterwall.
Captain Zetterwall said that the deployment is roughest on the families of the Soldiers.
“The hardest part for me was talking with my father. I spent almost an hour on the phone with him, easing him,” Captain Zetterwall said. “He was asking me all kinds of questions … if we have enough armor on our vehicles and so forth. What I told him is that we are prepared and that this is our mission.”
Captain Zetterwall continued to stress the point of how his Soldiers have meticulously trained to get ready, noting that they been conducting field training exercises, rollouts, combat life-saver courses, and live-fire exercises since August, when they first received the word that they were heading downrange.
“Honestly, right now, we are ready,” he said emphatically. “In a garrison environment, we are about as trained as we can be until we can get into a different infrastructure and environment.
“We trained a lot on single or dirt roads that are not the Autobahn where you go 50 mph and do your battle drills. We have been doing a lot of convoys, getting them (the drivers) used to their intervals, but actually doing that now in a combat zone and actually doing that with a battlefield effect is where we need to go.”
Captain Zetterwall said that one of his biggest challenges that await him and his company – besides a live-fire exercise upon arrival in Kuwait – is quashing what he termed, “the rumor.”
“What I mean by that is that we are going to be based in Kuwait and will be having convoys running routinely eight to 10 transportation circuits (into Iraq) four to five days up and four to five days back. If something does happen, say a casualty – or, God forbid – if we actually lose a Soldier, the Command needs to the family first, before the family gets a cell-phone call or somebody else relays that message. To me, we have failed as a command, if we allow that to happen.”
Captain Zetterwall also said that the standards must continue to be enforced.
“We will be in a combat zone and most Soldiers have a tendency to think, ‘Hey, I am just here to do this job.’ But when it comes to weapons, you have to maintain discipline. The same goes with PT, because it’s that discipline that keeps you alive on the battlefield.
First Sgt. Timothy Green agreed with Captain Zetterwall that the toughest part of deployment for most Soldiers is separating from their families.
“You got a lot of Soldiers going downrange for the first time,” First Sergeant Green said. “It’s just hard for them to separate from the spouses, but the spouses do have a good support system.”
The first sergeant said he helps his Soldiers cope by sharing his own experiences with them.
“You talk to them to get them through it and you let them know about your experiences over the last 19 years and you tell the Private, “Hey, this is what I did and how I coped and how I passed the extra time downrange over your four or five deployments. Those are the kinds of things that you do.”