Friday, April 18, 2003

Soldiers at Schofield Barracks held a send-off ceremony yesterday for seven of their colleagues deploying to Iraq. One of those leaving, Sgt. Ronald Peters, got a hug from an unidentified soldier after the ceremony. Also headed for Iraq is Sgt. Elisa Gonzales, at right.

7 isle troops volunteer
for duty in Iraq

Army Reserve lawyer Patsy
Takemura is also shipping out

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The worst of the combat in Iraq may be over, but fighting continues.

That is what Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, 25th Infantry Division commander, told his troops as six truckers and one cavalry scout prepared to leave Schofield Barracks this weekend for duty in Iraq.

Olson praised the six male and one female soldiers for volunteering, describing them as "seven superb examples that the war is still going and that there is still a job to be done."

Sgt. Ronald Peters, a truck driver with the 725th Maintenance Support Battalion, said one of the reasons he volunteered three weeks ago was because "it is time to give the people there relief to come back home to be with their families."

But his wife, Sarah, said even with most of the fighting over, she is still worried. "It's never knowing where he's going to be, that's hard. ... Having a 2-year-old to take care of by myself, that's also hard."

Despite reports that there are no more major battles, Sarah Peters believes "it's still dangerous there."

The seven soldiers will join the 150 Tropic Lightning soldiers already in Kuwait, Iraq and other areas in Southwest Asia.

Olson said many of them are with the 101st Airborne Division and the 3rd Division, which have been in the thick of the battle.

Leaving today is 1st Lt. Patsy Takemura, an Army Reserve lawyer, whose orders say she may be gone as long as two years. Takemura, a 1979 Castle High School graduate, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Hawaii in 1985 and her law degree from Creighton University six years later.

More than 50 local Army reservists are currently on active duty, but the majority of them remain in the islands as part of the homeland defense force following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

An attorney with the public defender's officer for nearly 12 years, Takemura, 32, said she joined the Army Reserve in February 2001 because she wanted to serve her country.

While performing her annual training with the 22nd Legal Services Organization headquartered in Mesquite, Texas, in January, Takemura said she was informed that she and six other Army lawyers would be activated to provide trial defense services for soldiers, probably in the Persian Gulf area.

Those offenses could range from disobeying orders to felony crimes such as murder, she said.

Married for 11 years, Takemura said her husband, Allen, is "very supportive for me. He is my rock."

Sgt. Andrew Rice, a scout with the 25th's 3/4 Cav Regiment, said he has no desire to go to war, but he would have liked to be there when the war broke out, "just to see what it would have been like."

Spec. Isaac Diaz, a member of the 524th Combat Support Battalion, said he talked to his parents in Andrews, Texas. "My mom told me to be safe," said Diaz, who has been driving heavy-duty trucks in the Army for the past eight years.

Added Peters, 29: "I've been in the military for 11 years now. It's time to put all that training to the test. It's also my patriotic duty."

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