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Miramar air group heads for Iraq
N C TIMES ^ | January 27 2006 | MARK WALKER

Posted on 01/27/2006 7:45:24 PM PST by Dubya

MIRAMAR ---- Gunnery Sgt. Gail Saylor returned home from a Middle East deployment 10 days ago.

On Thursday, she and 10-year-old daughter were saying goodbye to her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Stuart Saylor, who left Miramar Marine Corps Air Station for Iraq, his seventh deployment since 9/11.

"The life of a Marine," Gail Saylor said.

"This is my last trip," Stuart Saylor said as he and about 300 other troops attached to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station queued up outside a base armory to retrieve their sidearms and rifles, do a final check on their sea bags and exchange tearful farewells with friends and family.

Kayla Saylor, a fifth-grader at Poway's Highland Ranch Elementary School, said she was glad her mom was home and had mixed feelings about her dad's heading to a war zone yet again.

"I'm kind of glad about what he is going to be doing for our freedom," Kayla said. "But I'm kind of sad because I will really, really miss him."

The deployment of parts of the 3rd Aircraft Wing's Marine Air Control Group 38, Marine Aircraft Group 16 and Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron Three represent part of the aviation component of the I Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton and Miramar.

About 25,000 local Marines and sailors attached to the force are now deploying for the Anbar region of Iraq to relieve the II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Those who left Thursday, including a cadre of medical corpsmen, helicopter and jet pilots and crew and support teams will be stationed at Al Asad Airfield, the second largest U.S. air base in Iraq, about 110 miles west of Baghdad.

For Saylor, this deployment will be his last as he is slated to retire in September. An intelligence unit leader, he was first deployed to Guam three days after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, he has been to Afghanistan once, and Kuwait on two occasions. This is his fourth time in Iraq.

"It's been real tough on the family," he said as fighter jets roared from a nearby runway every few minutes. "I don't know how my daughter deals with it, but she does."

The frequency of deployments, which now average about every seven months for most active-duty Marines, and the overall demands on all U.S. forces have come under increasing national scrutiny.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld disputed that U.S. forces were overextended. But on Thursday, the top general in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, expressed a differing view.

"The forces are stretched," Casey told The Associated Press. "I don't think there's any question of that."

Despite the debate over the strength of the force, Miramar Lt. Col. Jeff Koffel said his troops and their families were well-prepared.

"We're more than ready," said Koffel, a Ramona resident and the man in charge of many of the troops attached to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron Three. "We spend a lot more time these days focusing on the families and preparing for days like this.

"Our most important assets are our people, and we make sure they and their families are ready."

The deployment will last at least seven months for most of those who flew out Thursday, although some said they expect to be in Iraq for 12 months.

Among the medical personnel who left was Corpsman Jason Cahill, a Fallbrook resident who was saying goodbye to Stefany, his wife of four months.

"I'm just out there to do my job," said Cahill, who took part in numerous medical missions during the seven months he spent in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004.

Like several of the young wives and girlfriends on hand Thursday, Stefany was too distraught to talk about her husband's mission.

Corpsman Jared Ziers was primed to go on his second deployment. His first was in Afghanistan, where he said he mostly treated wounded and sick Afghanis.

"This time I will be able to do a lot of good for my guys," said the West Palm Beach, Fla., man, who was singing a version of "Happy Birthday" to himself in recognition of his 32nd birthday today. His version was, "Happy birthday to you, you're going to Iraq ... "

Ziers said he believes the U.S. is making significant progress in Iraq, and he was critical of what he termed mostly negative stories in the news media.

"No one ever hears the good stories like in Afghanistan where we have eliminated the Taliban and liberated the people there," he said. "They want us there. It's the same in Iraq ---- we're there to do good, and I hope my experience is the same as it was in Afghanistan."

Kelley Nicholson of Yuma, Ariz., was for the most part stoic about the departure of her husband, Harrier jet pilot Capt. Chris Nicholson, who will miss the birth of his second child due in June.

"It's a tough day," she said. "It's never easy."

The Nicholsons' son, 2 1/2-year-old Vickery, wore a shirt that read "My dad ... One of the few, the proud, the Marines." He said he "was going to take care of my Mommy and the baby."

Capt. Nicholson was succinct about what lies ahead. "We've got a job to do, and we're going to go do it."

As for the just-returned Gunnery Sgt. Gail Saylor, she summed up her husband's seventh and final deployment in three words:

"Tag, you're it."

Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or mlwalker@nctimes.com. To comment, go to nctimes.com.

On the Web:

www.3maw.usmc.mil

www.miramar.usmc.mil


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 3rdmaw; deployed; godspeed; iraq; marines; miramar; oif

Sgt. Jeremy Willoughby and his son Keegan, 16 months, make their last moments memorable Thursday before the father prepares to leave Miramar for Iraq with about 300 other Marines and sailors. About 25,000 local troops are heading to Iraq in the next few weeks

WALDO NILO Staff Photographer

1 posted on 01/27/2006 7:45:26 PM PST by Dubya
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To: All

I hope he makes it back to be with that son.


2 posted on 01/27/2006 7:46:12 PM PST by Dubya (Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father,but by me)
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To: Dubya
Kelley Nicholson of Yuma, Ariz., was for the most part stoic about the departure of her husband, Harrier jet pilot Capt. Chris Nicholson, who will miss the birth of his second child due in June.

"It's a tough day," she said. "It's never easy."

The Nicholsons' son, 2 1/2-year-old Vickery, wore a shirt that read "My dad ... One of the few, the proud, the Marines." He said he "was going to take care of my Mommy and the baby."

God Bless these Marines and their families.

3 posted on 01/27/2006 7:51:39 PM PST by Rummyfan
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To: Dubya

Prayers daily for the troops and their families.


4 posted on 01/27/2006 8:17:03 PM PST by Cindy
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To: Dubya

Please Lord, take care of these families...


5 posted on 01/27/2006 8:31:09 PM PST by Bradís Gramma
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To: Dubya

Godspeed to Sgt Willoughby and young Keegan. May they meet and laugh again soon.

Great pic!

Oldplayer


6 posted on 01/27/2006 10:06:14 PM PST by oldplayer
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