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Reserve families brace for long haul

Tue., Sept. 22, 2009

Unit headed to Kuwait for a year’s deployment

As Pfc. Nicholas Adams held five-day-old Connor against his camouflage uniform Monday, he and his wife, Angela, talked about preparing for the one-year separation they’re about to endure.

They’ve known for almost a year that Nicholas Adams’ Army Reserve unit would be called to active duty, and for months that he’d be going to the Middle East. The U.S. Army is reducing troops in Iraq, but that just creates more work for units like the Hillyard-based 643rd Automated Cargo Documentation Detachment, which help manage the flow of equipment in to – and now mostly out of – Kuwait.

Families gathered Monday for the unit’s official send-off at the Joe E. Mann Reserve Center on North Market Street.

Nicholas Adams said they had practice during some briefer separations of a month or two while he was on shorter missions. But that was before their first child was born Wednesday. They’ll try to get through by making sure Nicholas gets plenty of photos of Connor’s first year and hears his first words over a computer hookup.

“We’ve got laptops, webcams and Skype,” he said.

Still, the mental preparations are the hardest, Angela Adams said.

Col. Ron Lane, the transportation group commander, told the gathered families that they have a long year ahead, and so do the departing troops. Their base in Kuwait is a lot like Spokane, Lane joked, except it’s 30 degrees hotter and without a living thing around it.

But the U.S. is pulling troops out of Iraq, Lane said, and the 25 members of the 643rd who handle cargo and port operations are badly needed: “There’s a lot to be done, and your family members will be a part of that.”

For Staff Sgt. Thomas Liljestrand, who has been in the Army eight years, this will be the second stint in the Middle East. He hopes he’ll be able to use some of the time overseas to take online classes toward his goal of becoming a teacher. This tour will be tougher, though, because he’s married now.

He’ll miss his first wedding anniversary next month, and maybe his second, depending on when the unit makes it back from Kuwait. But Stephanie Liljestrand, who’s studying to be a nurse midwife, said she’s been preparing for his absence by getting involved with the unit’s family resource group.

“The more you know, the less worry you have,” Stephanie Liljestrand said. “He’s a lifer, so this may not even be his last deployment. I won’t rule it out until he’s retired.”

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