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Morale high as unit moves toward Iraq

The exact location of 113th National Guard unit troops in the Middle East at this time is questionable, but unit commanders do their best to keep families in North Carolina informed.
A letter to families dated March 1 from Brigadier General Dan Hickman, commander of the “Old Hickory” 30th Brigade Combat Team, details the team’s preparation for their move north from Kuwait into Iraq. The 113th National Guard and its Lincolnton unit are among this team.
“We were able to move almost 5,000 troops nearly 7,000 miles without any serious incidents and have yet to have an accident or injury. Soldier morale is high and I feel that most are genuinely proud to be part of this important mission,”Hickman said.
The letter goes on to describe living conditions for the troops – amenities are scarce, but “good by Army field standards.” Soldiers are required to wear their body armor and helmet at all times, despite the hot weather, for safety purposes, it says.
The Brigade, consisting of 4,800 National Guard troops, 3,500 of them from North Carolina, was ordered to 18 months active duty on Oct. 1. Following training, the Brigade left for Kuwait last month. Whether the troops are currently in Iraq is unknown.
Gastonia resident Tom Stocker’s son George is a sergeant with the guard unit.
“Right now we are just sitting and waiting and hoping we don’t get the dreaded visit from anyone in the army,” said Stocker.
Cpl. George Stocker, 21, is a college senior and sergeant with the guard unit. George’s father says he’s received only a few emails since his son left for the Middle East four weeks ago. He continues to wait, mulling over conflicting reports he hears from other families.
“I guess we all will be doing that for quite a while until they come home,” said Stocker.
The N.C. National Guard Office of Public Affairs has reported one death since the deployment of the 30th Brigade Combat Team to Kuwait in February, two since the beginning of the Iraq war. by Josh Davis

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