640th Aviation Support Battalion deployment

Helena Independent Record

by Angela Brandt

Staff Sgt. Roger Petersen received at least five goodbye hugs each from his four sons on Sunday morning if not 10 or 20. At one point, he had all four, along with his wife, Angel, latched onto him at one time.

The boys waved their little American flags as they watched their father go through security at Helena Regional Airport.

Right before going through the metal detector, Roger Petersen ran back for one final hug and kiss from his wife and sons — Travis, 9, Joshua, 7, and 3-year-old twins Dawson and Derek.

On Sunday morning, Roger Petersen was heading to Fort Hood, Texas, along with about 25 members of the Fort Harrison-based 640th Aviation Support Battalion. Following about eight weeks of final training, the Montana Army National Guard Soldiers will deploy to Iraq for about a year.

Dawson Peterson clung to his dad. This was the first time Roger Peterson has deployed overseas since the twins were born and his second time total.

“Wave at Daddy as he comes by,” Angel Peterson told her sons as she wiped a tear from her eye.

Along with the sea of other family and friends gathered for the sendoff, the boys got one last glimpse of their father through the upstairs window before he boarded the plane.

Those soldiers who deployed Sunday will support the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade in Operation New Dawn, which consists of stability operations in Iraq conducted by some 50,000 troops following the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and combat operations Sept. 1. They are mechanics and maintainers of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.

A ceremony was held before the plane’s departure. U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus were on hand visiting with the soldiers.

“We want to make sure these folks know they have our support while they are on the field and also their families at home,” Tester said.

“Montana is making a great contribution sending these great solders. We’re sending the best of the best,” he added.

More than 800 Montana soldiers will be overseas by the end of the month.

Baucus said he always does his best to attend deployments, and this one had good timing because he was headed back to work on the same commercial flight.

“I am honored to fly with these guys,” he said.

For Sgt. Joseph Briggs, the deployment marks his first with the Montana Army National Guard although he has gone overseas seven times with the U.S. Air Force.

Briggs, 27, said he was glad the anticipation of heading to Iraq is over.

“I’m excited to get this started,” he said.

With the holiday season just getting into full swing, Briggs said the timing of the deployment is especially hard.

“It’s tough with Thanksgiving right around the corner,” he said.

His family celebrated with an early turkey dinner, and Briggs said he is already looking forward to the holidays next year, when he’ll be reunited with his loved ones.