A community sendoff ceremony was held Saturday in the Ankeny High School gymnasium, where an estimated 2000 friends and family members gathered to wish their loved ones a safe deployment. The sendoff was also attended by political dignitaries, including Gov. Chet Culver, who reassured the soldier’s that their families will be in good hands during their deployment. “To the families, please know that we stand ready to assist you if there is anything we can do to for you,” Culver said.
Moreover, Culver reassured members of the 186th that he’ll keep fighting on their behalf on the Iowa home front. “As your governor, please know that I will do everything in my power to help you when you return and transition into civilian life. We will fight for you when it comes to health care, housing and educational assistance," Culver said. “I’m grateful to the 186th for your service to our state and our nation and all the sacrifices you are making, including putting yourselves in harms way. Being away from loved ones is a testament to your dedication to all Iowa citizens and to your entire country.”
Culver was not the only one promising to keep watch on the home front. Several friends and family members of Sgt. Owen Fuller donned t-shirts with Owen’s name on the front and “Got Your Back…” on the back.
“They wanted to surprise Owen and let him know that they’ll help take care of his wife and infant daughter while he’s deployed,” said Tom Healy, a longtime friend of Fullers. “The First Sergeant told me I had a whole platoon of people here to see me,” Fuller joked to his friends and family as they gathered around him. (below)
Having previously served in Iraq during 2003-2004, the 186th will be mobilized for its second deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq “There an outstanding unit and have terrific soldiers from top to bottom of the ranks,” Iowa National Guard Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. Greg Hapgood told the Iowa Independent. "They will have a successful mission over there, because they have worked and trained hard to get them as proficient as they are at this point.”
Culver echoed these sentiments with the closing remarks of his brief speech during the ceremony: “I’m grateful to the 186th for your service to our state and our nation."
Gov. Culver makes his rounds and pays respects to members of the 186th Military Police Company