Waterloo 133rd soldiers and families gather for public meeting - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo 133rd soldiers and families gather for public meeting

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- The Iowa National Guard is preparing to deploy a team of nearly 2,800 Iowa soldiers and about 250 Nebraska soldiers to Afghanistan. For this Middle East tour, they're working to improve communication with family and community members back home.

They're starting with a series of town hall meetings across the state -- the latest in Waterloo. More than 500 members of the Waterloo-based 133rd Infantry Battalion are deploying for the mission. They returned in 2007 from a 22 month tour in Iraq.

"Unfortunately, it's kind of an on-going thing. You get into your regular pattern of life, and then two and a half years later you're getting ready to go back out the door again," noted 133rd Capt. Garrett Gingrich.

Families are also getting ready. While their loved ones are deployed, they have limited sources of information or contact with the soldiers.

"The only communication you get whatsoever, you get through email or regular letter," noted Family Readiness Group coordinator David Niederhauser.

Tuesday night's public meeting is a new way of keeping family members in the loop and explaining what to expect in the coming months. At this point, leaders from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team can report they're mobilizing in the fall. By Thanksgiving, all deploying soldiers should be in Afghanistan.

"This is a great opportunity for us to get out and be a little more proactive and open up those lines of communication with family members, employers, and family members," said Guard spokesperson Major Mike Wunn.

Col. Thomas Staton of the 2nd BCT spoke, as much as possible, about their mission during Tuesday's meeting. The soldiers will partner with Afghan troops -- working on training and helping to stabilize the country. Another brigade leader noted - with this many troops deploying, they're not expecting modern military living conditions. In fact, he said he's expecting the worst.

However, they are planning to keep in contact with families in Iowa.

"The intent is, we'll continue to do town hall meetings, obviously once we deploy downrange, we can't do that in person. But we have plans to do what we're going to call virtual town hall meetings -- in which we would use technology to try to give people an opportunity to ask questions and have that interaction with the command," he added.

Soldiers are depending on the community to support them when they have to say goodbye, and they're looking forward to another unforgettable welcome home.

"It's, really it's everything. Your family, where you come from, the background. It was..one of the most amazing things I've experienced was coming home and having all that overwhelming support and everyone there," said Gingrich of the 2007 homecoming.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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