Soldiers take off for yearlong deployment

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WEST JORDAN -- Family and friends said an emotional goodbye to dozens of soldiers headed to Iraq Monday. About 45 soldiers from the Utah Army National Guard's aviation battalion are leaving Utah for a yearlong assignment in Iraq.

The 45 soldiers loaded up on five Blackhawk helicopters to take off, headed to Fort Sill, Okla. A gloved hand could be seen waving goodbye from one of the windows.

Left behind were family members like Cathy Zesiger, whose husband Dale went back into the army this year after about 13 years away.

"He wanted to serve again. I'm a little nervous, but very very proud of him," she said.

He recently retired from the Salt Lake City Police Department and will leave behind not only his wife and children, but his six grandchildren too.

"Better us than a young family with (young) children having to make that sacrifice," Cathy said.

This is the second or third deployment for many of these soldiers. This is the second time Andy Lovejoy has left his wife and four children. "They should be able to manage a little bit better. They've been through it before," he said.

All of the pilots and other crew members leaving today and throughout the week will receive two more months of training once they arrive at Fort Sill before heading to Iraq. Once they arrive in the war-torn country, their mission will be to transport personnel, equipment and other supplies to soldiers throughout the country.

Lt. Col. Hank McIntire, a Utah National Guard spokesman, said, "In many cases, they'll be doing an air assault mission where they will be taking small groups of soldiers and inserting them in strategic locations, sometimes in or near the front lines."

He says going to the front lines will be dangerous, but hopefully not as dangerous as it could be.

"Most of the attention right now is being associated with Afghanistan, and there's a lot of danger right now in Afghanistan and less danger associated with Iraq," he said.

The deployment of the 2-285th brings the overall number of deployed soldiers and airmen from the Utah National Guard to approximately 100.

A second group of soldiers from the 2-285th will leave from Salt Lake City on commercial flights and arrive at Fort Sill later this week.

Many of the soldiers deployed Monday will be out for about 13 months.

Compiled with information from Shara Park and Mary Richards

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