With tears, hugs and resolute salutes 300 battle-fatigue wearing troops of the New York Army National Guard 101st Expeditionary Signal Battalion mustered at Stewart Air Force base March 17.
They were headed for war in Afghanistan. But before they went they had to say goodbye.
As U.S. Army Signal Corps troops, this branch performs some of the most innovative up to date warfare on the planet. So in the Guard’s cavernous hanger there was a huge party for a few hundred loved ones who had to say goodbye and good luck.
It was a huge party kind of getting to know you and thanks gathering for loved ones, parents, sisters, children and grandparents in a cavernous Stewart Air National Guard base hanger where more than 140 people, including parents, fiancées, small children and friends invited by the 105th to share in the accomplishments of these Signal Corps soldiers.And to wish them all Godspeed.
“We are a big family,” said the commander of the air base, Lt. Col. Ian Seagriff. He’s a former New York City firefighter and himself an Afghanistan war veteran. Part of the big Army family he spoke of is leaving for action in Afghanistan after training in the months ahead at Fort Hood, Texas, for cyber-warfare electronic eavesdropping.
John Garcia from Brooklyn came to see off his National Guard member fiancé, a “bittersweet” parting for now. Pretty much many felt that way in this dedicated crowd of spouses, best friends, sweethearts and relatives.
Two children wearing Army caps were seen shedding tears.
Also deploying to Afghanistan are a mother and daughter both of Yonkers. They are all family to the 105th and will not be out of touch. And the 105th promises to keep track of its people.
As for the rest of the goodbye ceremony for the departing signal corps soldiers it was a scene of unbounded good will as children, adults – those known to each other or not -, mingling , trading personal stories.
Families, fiancées, friends of the troops gathered in the cavernous 105th airplane hangar where loved ones, family members and children gathered for the spectacle of the unit’s departure that had everything – marching songs, prayers, and countless goodbyes hugs and kisses, and two small children wearing fatigue caps who smiled and were also a bit tearful.
One child asked what the signal corps does.
The U.S. Army Signal Corps is expert in eaves-dropping on enemies, confusing enemy messages, and even invented a system in Vietnam to pin-point hidden enemy mortar installations. And the signal corps handles weather analysis. All kinds of very cool stuff. The signal corps is a storied for inventions – such as a detector to find hidden enema mortars. The signal corps been outfoxing the enemy for at least 100 years. They disable enemy communications. Their history includes balloon surveillance in the Civil War. They are uniquely trained for this new battle of outwitting enemies. The Signal Corps in 2012 mobilized for the Global War on Terrorism Campaign. They have a track record of innovative solutions to military and other problems.
In 1946 the Signal Corps’ Project Diana bounced radar signals off the moon for measurements. And in the Korean War signal corps personnel developed a fast mortar location device to locate and destroy enemy mortar emplacements quickly. There’s a huge list of signal corps achievements. So getting these very smart people up front is key.
And they’ve got really smart people backing them up. Such as the soldiers of the 105th.
By Wayne A. Hall