Nearly 70 members of the 111th Quartermaster Company bid farewell to Family members, friends and fellow Soldiers at Clark Fitness Center Saturday as they embarked upon a journey that will eventually lead them to Southwest Asia.
The unit, an element of the 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 49th QM Group, is scheduled for a six-month deployment to the region in support of the Global War on Terror. It will be based in Kuwait but its personnel will be assigned to locations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The unit’s company commander said his Soldiers are more than ready to take on the challenge.
“I think it’s a good day for the Army,” said Capt. Todd Lauvray, who did not deploy with the unit. “I know they are prepared and ready to perform their mission.”
The 111th is one of two mortuary affairs units in the active Army. They are responsible for processing the remains of military members and civilians in the theater of operations. For Soldiers such as Spc. Travis Austin, the deployment is an opportunity to serve honorably.
“I’m excited about the job we’re about to go do for our country,” said the former embalmer and funeral director. “It’s a sad occasion to leave my Family, of course, but I’m excited about the work I’m doing and I’m proud to be an American today.”
Austin left behind four children and a wife, Stephanie, who was teary-eyed yet hopeful.
“The Lord is definitely going to be with my husband,” she said. “He’s keeping us strong.”
The Austins have experienced separations in the past, but Stephanie said this is her husband’s first deployment in support of either Operation Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom. She said she is learning to better cope with each send-off.
“It’s different every time,” she said, “but you learn to live with it. You learn to grow with it.”
Second Lt. Shirley Williams, the officer in charge of the deploying Soldiers, was a picture of contrast compared to the many solemn faces in the facility. She sported a wide smile and loads of enthusiasm as she talked about her first deployment and the prospect of seeing another part of the world.
“I’m personally looking forward to getting out of the United States for once,” she said, “just to see the different cultures, just to experience something different.”
Williams and her Soldiers will replace members of its sister unit, the 54th QM Co., also an element of the 49th QM Group. The two units have deployed personnel to Southwest Asia on a rotational basis since 2006.
The 49th QM Group has supported operations in Southwest Asia for several years and currently has about a hundred Soldiers deployed to the region performing numerous combat service support functions.