SPRINGFIELD – Military deployments are so common in our wartime society that some citizens have developed a bit of tin ear when it comes to recognizing how incredibly brave these men and women are for leaving loved ones and careers behind, and how strong family and friends remain for enduring their long absences.
In the case of Ware’s own 747th Military Police Company – one of the oldest battalions in US Army history – that fateful day came Tuesday for 176 soldiers inside the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield.
For this writer and young father of two baby boys, the solemn moment hit hard after the ceremony when families and friends bid farewell on the stadium floor. A 30-something soldier was carrying his own toddler son tightly in his arms. His son had fallen asleep during the ceremony. The dad looked so very proud but also sad and nervous. He won’t see or feel his little boy or wife in person for 12 months. He could miss those first precious spoken words, success in potty training, and his first kick at a soccer ball. He will definitely miss his son’s next birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas at home.
All this, so he can serve his country in a yearlong mobilization order as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 747th’s activation is no mistake. A recent major policy change by President Barack Obama to withdraw American soldiers out of Iraq’s cities and major towns and supplant security in these areas with Iraq police and non-American security teams drive the MP’s core mission. According to Maj. Gen. Joseph Carter, who leads the Massachusetts National Guard Reserve, the unit will be responsible for training police departments throughout the province in their area of operations.
Ware resident 1st Sgt. Michael J. Domnarski leads the 747th MP Company.
“What we do is about leadership and fellowship,” said Lt. Col. Richard Johnson, who spent 18 years serving in this battalion. “The most basic tenet is to do the right thing. Leadership is not about the rank on your uniform.”
By a show of hands at the request of Johnson, at least half of the 747th MPs present Tuesday were deployed during 2002 and 2003 to Kabul, Afghanistan, where they provided security and assisted in training Afghan Army units.
More than 50 percent of the 176 soldiers leaving for pre-Iraq deployment training at Fort Dix in New Jersey on Wednesday, July 8 – a base made famous for training doughboys for duty in World War I in 1917 – live in Ware and surrounding towns, according to public affairs officer Maj. James J. Sahady Jr. We see them in plains clothes at the supermarket, bank and restaurant every day. They will be putting themselves in harm’s way in a few short weeks.
We wish them Godspeed, a safe and effective mission, and speedy return to American shores.
As Gen. Carter said to me after the procession, “this mission is about developing a repport with the Iraqi counterparts. It is the biggest first challenge for the troops.”
Developing a repport with our local men and women in uniform is our civic responsibility.
- Tim Kane is editor of the Ware River News and Quaboag Current.