Jackson Troops Leave for Training, Iraq

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

"Are you ready?" a guard commander shouts to the nearly 300 troops assembled.

The Michigan Army National Guard soldiers shout back in the affirmative -- and with that, it's off to more training, and then Iraq for the men and women if the 1461st Transportation Company.

"A little scared, a little nervous. But we have a mission to do," Staff Sgt. Michael Engel said at the sendoff Saturday.

The mission for Engel and his fellow soldiers in the 1461st: Transportation support for other U.S. troops in Iraq.

It's Engel's first trip overseas, but he'll have a familiar face along for the scheduled 12-month tour.

"I was in Desert Storm," 1st Sgt. John Engel said -- John is Michael Engel's father. They'll be serving together in Iraq.

"It'll be kind of nice at times to put the soldier side away and say, 'Hey Dad, I miss home -- want to talk about it?' " Michael Engel said.

For both Engels, it's the first time serving in the current Iraq war. They'll be joined by what a guard spokesperson estimates at roughly 70 soldiers making a return trip to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Among those 70: Spec. Steven Todd. He says, even for those who've been home from Iraq for a matter of months, re-adjusting to duty isn't seamless.

"First time things happen there are always those initial jitters," Todd said.

There are, of course, jitters for the children and spouses of those who serve as well.

"I guess it really hasn't hit me yet but I guess I'll deal with it," Todd's wife, Antonia, said.

The Todds say maintaining communication between family members and soldiers is key. While the Engels will have direct communication with each other while in Iraq, they'll be missing others in their family.

And they'll be joined by hundreds whose families will remain far away.

"I'm going to take care of all of these men like they're all my sons," John Engel said.

The 1461st will spend four to six weeks in training at Camp Atterbury, Ind. before heading to Iraq.

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