Iraq-bound mostly teens
The 291 soldiers begin a year in northern Iraq after a month training in the Mojave Desert
When Josh Clark deploys to Iraq, he won't have his skateboarding shoes and baggy jeans, but he'll have his music.
"They can take away who I am on the outside, but they can't take away my music," said 20-year-old Clark, of Ohio.
He and 290 other soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the 27th Infantry Regiment left Hickam Air Force Base last night on their way to Iraq. Their departure marks the 70 percent mark of the 7,000 25th Infantry Division soldiers scheduled to deploy this summer.
Many soldiers jammed their uniform pockets with stacks of CDs.
"I'll listen to any skateboarding song because they bring me back to a happier time when I was out skating, not a care in the world," Clark said.
The troops will begin their one-year deployment by stopping in Kuwait after more than 30 hours of flying. They will be stationed in northern Iraq.
The Schofield Barracks soldiers will train for three weeks in Kuwait and replace part of the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq.
"It's not easy for an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kid to come into the military, so I'm sure they have their convictions," said Lt. Col. Drew Meyerowich, of the 27th Infantry Regiment.
"I think I'm still a kid, but heck, this is what I signed up for, right?" said 19-year-old Jonathon Butler, from Montana. "I'll still feel like a kid up there, because some CDs I'm bringing were from high school time, just last year."
Like Butler and Clark, the majority of the troops in the battalion just graduated from high school.
"But as young as they are, they are still well trained and well equipped," Meyerowich said. "I know they'll be OK."
The battalion spent one month at the National Training Center in California, where a mock Iraqi city and desert helped to prepare them for the move.
The center is located in the Mojave Desert about 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles. It is one of two used by the Army to train soldiers in counterinsurgency tactics for combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other is the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
"I learned that the left hand is considered the dirty hand in Iraq, so don't shake or do anything with that hand," Clark said, "which can be important when confronting the enemy."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry "Wolfhounds" left Hickam Air Force Base yesterday for northern Iraq via Kuwait.