Soldiers’ departure bittersweet for state

staff

This week, the state of South Dakota watched another group of its native sons ship off for a faraway place where their safety is far from completely certain.

Members of the 153rd Engineering Battalion, like the men who graced the cover of this publication last week, climbed onto jets, rifles in hand, bound for Kuwait and a military operation that has already employed the services of hundreds of South Dakota soldiers.

And, while the citizens of the state are understandably worried about their sons, daughters, neighbors and classmates, it’s important to keep in mind that these soldiers are not going into the desert unaware of what awaits them.

Rather, these are men and women that have spent months preparing for what lies ahead. They’ve grown a lot in that time, not only in their respective military disciplines, but also in their mental mettle and in their faith in each other.

Typically focused on building bridges and tearing down obstacles that might impede military advancement, members of the 153rd have learned how to handle tasks ranging from protection of a military convoy to searching for dangerous people and materials in an urban setting.

They know the proper response to mortar attacks and sniper encampments outside the military base.

Believe it or not, they’re probably less worried about the situation than are those of us back home.

And, though it may be little solace for those worried about the men of the 153rd, the arrival of more troops in the region might provide the needed force to free up other South Dakota soldiers to come home.

This makes watching those soldiers board their plane to the Middle East a truly bittersweet occurrence for the state. While it would be nice if the 153rd didn’t have to go, the cycle of soldiers in and out of this situation is one that this state will continue to watch and accept in the name of duty.

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