3,500-member "Spartan" brigade gets gala send-off
Heading into hostile territory is nothing new for Brian Flanagan, a member of the Army's 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, who is about to ship out on his fourth tour of duty overseas. But this time around, leaving home will be especially tough.
"Every one has its own challenges," Flanagan said shortly before a deployment ceremony for the 3,500-member brigade at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
This time around, Flanagan will be leaving not just the safety of home, but a newborn son, 3-month-old Colin.
"This one brings its own challenge," Flanagan said, shortly after wiping a bit of spit-up off little Colin's chin as wife, Blair, held their newborn baby.
The cries of newborns were ever-present during the hourlong deployment ceremony, a fact not lost on several of the speakers during the ceremony.
"To your military family members," said Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell. "I want you to consider Alaskans your extended families."
Family members and friends of the troops packed the Sullivan arena for the ceremony, the final public send-off for the brigade, which will ship out through the end of December. When they arrive in Afghanistan, they'll bring the total of Alaska-based troops serving there to around 9,000 — or about 10 percent of the entire U.S. fighting force in in the Asian country, said U.S. Sen. Mark Begich.
"Alaska has a very special relationship with our militiary," Begich told the troops.
During her speech, Sen. Lisa Murkowski praised the "Spartan" brigade, which will be making its third deployment overseas since being activated in 2005.
"You're a cut above the rest," Murkowski said. "You are Arctic tough."
Like the other speakers, Murkowski took time during her remarks to recognize the thousands of family members that will be left behind in Alaska during the deployment.
"Whether it's here in Anchorage or Eagle River or the Mat-Su or wherever you may be ... the Alaska community is here for you," she said.
The senator promised family members left behind that she'll do anything in her power — personally — to ensure the home fires remain burning.
"If you don't know where else to go, call me," she said.
Following remarks from Alaska's top politicians, the Spartans' leader, Col. Morris Goins, ended the ceremony with a simple pledge to the civilians whom the Sparans will be serving while in Afghanistan.
"We will not let you down," Goins said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org