From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Troops with the Washington National Guard 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team are undergoing training in Yakima before their fall deployment to Iraq.
Dan Purcell, an administrative secretary with the Washington Military Department, said the troops arrived at the Yakima Training Center July 12 and will remain until Aug. 8. They are undergoing "soldier training," rehashing such skills as first aid and marksmanship.
The troops will be placed on federal active duty and travel to Fort McCoy, Wis., the week of Aug. 18 for further training. Purcell said when and where in Iraq the troops are going will not be released because of security concerns.
About 60 soldiers conduct their training out of the Pullman Armory as part of Detachment 2, Company B, 1-161st Infantry Battalion. The battalion is a part of the 81st combat team.
While the troops train, a group of Palouse residents are preparing to offer support during their deployment.
Pullman resident Rebecca Schwartz is organizing a troop support group that will periodically meet to write letters or box care packages for the soldiers in the 81st.
"I think we'll try to organize something for all people in the community, so we can all get together and pack packages or write letters and kind of make a party out of it," she said. "We need to let the troops know that even though they're gone, they're not absent from our minds. ... It's a way to show our appreciation and let them know we're thinking about them."
Schwartz is working in cooperation with Janne Liguori, the Pullman point of contact for the Family Readiness Group - a command-sponsored organization that provides a way for family members to seek mutual support, assistance and information while their loved one is deployed.
"We're all in the same boat that way," she said. "It's just a way of keeping in touch and handling things."
Liguori, whose husband, Doug, is preparing for deployment, said she doesn't expect there to be a big send-off for the troops, as there was a patriotic rally in June meant to show support to the soldiers.
"We set it up to do it back in June so we'd know they'd be there and it didn't take away from family time before they left," she said.
Liguori talks to her husband briefly nearly every day and said morale among the troops seems strong.
"He sounds happy when he calls," she said. "That's always a good sign."
The 81st comprises about 2,900 National Guard members from Washington state and 900 from California.
The soldiers were put on alert for possible mobilization and deployment in mid-October. They were informed in March that they would return to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The 81st previously served in Iraq from March 2004 to March 2005.
Area residents interested in troop support efforts can contact Rebecca and Heather Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.