About 600 members of the 100th Battalion lined up yesterday in preparation of picture-taking at Schofield Barracks. The first group of Iraq-bound Army reservists with the battalion leaves Saturday for training.

Reservists don
desert brown

Iraq-bound soldiers pose for a
photo in their new camouflage

The first group of Iraq-bound Army reservists with the 100th Battalion will leave early Saturday for four months of training on the mainland.

Forty-one members of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, will leave for Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, as part of an advance party to prepare the way for fellow soldiers.

By the end of next week, nearly 2,200 Hawaii Army National Guard and Army reservists will be housed at Fort Bliss to begin three months of pre-deployment training. They will join another 1,400 soldiers from the brigade's mainland units.

The last soldier of the 100th Battalion is expected to leave Tuesday.

The Reserve soldiers are part of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade and are participating in the largest deployment of island National Guard and reservists since World War II. Their year-long deployment to Iraq is expected to begin in February or March.

Jazmyn Jack, 3, held hands with her father, Pfc. Derence Jack, after he took his group photo yesterday at Schofield Barracks with Echo Company, 100th Battalion. Jazmyn and her mother, Melisa Jack, are from Saipan.

The 100th Battalion is one of three combat infantry units of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade that was mobilized on Aug. 16. The other two are the Hilo-based 2nd Battalion, 299th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, from California.

Yesterday, dressed for the first time in their brown, tan and green desert camouflage fatigues, the soldiers of the 100th Battalion stood in formation under a hot noon sun at Schofield Barracks' historic B Quad for an unit photograph.

"They are little light," said Capt. David Keleti, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, pointing to the material of his new uniform, "but the boots are very comfortable."

Lt. Col. Alan Ostermiller, the 100th Battalion's commanding officer, said, "Actually, the first time the soldiers will be wearing the DCUs (desert camouflage uniforms) officially will be Saturday."

Ostermiller was referring to a special send-off planned for the 2,200 members of the 29th Brigade at Aloha Stadium. The half-hour farewell ceremony, highlighted by speeches by Gov. Linda Lingle and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, will begin at 4 p.m. before kickoff of the University of Hawaii-Tulsa football game. More than 7,000 tickets will be given to the soldiers and their families.

The soldiers, however, are under orders to return by midnight because the next flow of soldiers to Fort Bliss will begin early Sunday morning.

Ostermiller, who assumed command of the battalion shortly after it was mobilized, said the last 38 days have been "very challenging yet very rewarding.

"These men have grown personally and physically. They have passed every challenge and task that came their way."

Maj. Dave Weisberg, operations officer, said one of his tasks is to ensure the equipment in 20 containers as well as 30 Humvees from Hawaii are offloaded safely from rail cars.

Members of the 29th Brigade will train at Fort Bliss until Dec. 20, when they will be given a two-week liberty for Christmas. Then the brigade will be sent to Louisiana's Fort Polk for final evaluation and combat certification, and deployment to Iraq in late February or early March.



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