Sixteen men and women from the CNMI, including a father-and-daughter tandem, will join some 600 soldiers from Guam to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the largest Guam National Guard's largest mobilization and deployment. A sendoff ceremony was held Friday morning on Saipan for these CNMI soldiers deploying with the I-294th Infantry Regiment and F Company, 29th Brigade Support Battalion.
“It's good to know I have my dad with me,” said U.S. Army PFC Britney Igitol, 19, who will be deployed to Aghanistan with her father, U.S. Army SPC Ivan Igitol, 48. They, however, belong to two different companies.
Marie Igitol, wife and mother of the two CNMI soldiers, said her faith and prayers are helping her get through it all.
“The only thing I can do is put my head up high and be strong. I have to be strong for my children especially. And while they're gone I have to do what needs to be done here, until their safe return,” Igitol told Saipan Tribune at the ceremony held at Fiesta Resort & Spa in Garapan.
The activation of the 1-294th IN RGT can be considered as the largest group of reserve component troops to be mobilized and deployed from Guam.
Besides the two Igitols, the other CNMI sons and daughters deploying are U.S. Army 1LT Joey Togawa, SPC Dan Angelo Bicera, SPC Christopher Del Rosario, SPC Josh Ejercito, SPC Ken Mojica, SPC Delorina Rabauliman, SPC Tiffany Santos, SPC Rita Taitano, PFC Hainy Borja, SPC Andrew Delos Reyes, PFC Nathaniel Mateo, PFC Andrew Reyes, PFC John Umbay and PV2 Elbert Espayos.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, in his speech, let the CNMI sons and daughters know that they are “respected in this community.”
“You are all important and highly valued in our community, and you will be missed. We will be waiting for you when you get back. You may always rest assured that you will always have the strong support of our CNMI community. You can see that from the support of everyone here,” the governor said.
Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos, members of the CNMI Legislature and other government officials, along with families, friends and employers were present.
Maj. Joseph I. Cruz, executive officer of I-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Ben Paulino and Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) also delivered remarks, while ESGR Guam-CNMI Committee State Chair David Sablan led the presentation of “My Boss is a Patriot Award” to employers of soldiers deploying.
The battalion is set to depart Guam for Camp Shelby, Mississipi, their mobilization training site in early March.
They will continue to train there for about two months before proceeding to Afghanistan to conduct their mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Full story on Monday's issue.