Iowans: on a Mission -- Day1 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowans: on a Mission -- Day1

CAMP RIPLEY, MN (KWWL) -- More than 3,000 Iowans are headed to Afghanistan later this year. They're members of the Iowa Army National Guard's Second Brigade Combat Team.

They'll serve about a year and will support ongoing operations and training of the Afghan National Security Forces.

We got an inside look at the guard's annual training at Camp Ripley, Minnesota Thursday and Friday. It will be the last training before the units deploy this summer.

The trip begins with an hour and 45 minute flight from Waterloo on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

It's not the primary mode of transportation for soldiers but for us, it's an option. So we take it.

Once back on the ground, we're assigned to our area.

Soon, we're at one of the many firing ranges at Camp Ripley.

That's where we catch up with Specialist Brandon Berry from Tipton - a father of two with another on the way.

"It's very difficult," Berry said. "I'm a very family-oriented person. I love kids. I love my kids to death. Just the time being away with them is too long. It just kills me. I have to talk to them - hear their voice once in a while."

Private Nicholas Paulsen of Cedar Falls joined the guard less than a year ago following in the footsteps of another family member.

"They're not too crazy about it," Paulsen said. "My brother has been to Iraq and it was tough having him over there. No one wants to see you go but they understand and their proud."

Sergeant Joseph Cormican of Palo has two brothers who served in Iraq.

"I'm excited," said Cormican. "It will be my first deployment."

He's on the range for qualification for small arms. It's well coordinated. Every shot is important - just like real life.

"I think I did alright," Cormican said. "I'm somewhere between a marksman and an expert."

This is the last training these soldiers will get before they deploy later this summer. They'll spend 60 days at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, then it's off to Ft. Irwin, California then to Afghanistan.

Sergeant Derrick Wygle wants to start working on his psychology degree at UNI. It'll have to wait until after Afghanistan.

"You get your notice that it's one year, 6 months, 1 month so it creeps along," Wygle said. "I'm ready to get this deployment started."

As night falls, we meet up with Delta Company out of Dubuque. That's where we met Sergeant Joey Lueck of Balltown. He shows us the M-9 that shoots 50 caliber bullets.

His wife's expecting twins in October. This will be his third deployment. The key?

"Even with the technology, and the technology's great, it's amazing to get a letter," Lueck said. "It's completely different. You can carry it around wherever you go and it's nice to get."

This will be Specialist Chad Pfab of Dubuque's second tour overseas. He went to Iraq before.

"It's what we have at home that makes it so much easier overseas," Pfab said. "We couldn't do it without family and friends back home. We want to hear our family's voices on the phone."

At the end of this night, some soldiers won't get back to their sleeping quarters until after two a-m. Not much sleep 'til they get up at five a-m - ready to train for Afghanistan once again.

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