NORTH DIGHTON, Mass. – “This is strange … it should be me going off to war, not her,” said Sgt. (Ret.) Christopher Adams as he watched his fiancé, Sgt. Katherine Lewis walk towards her fellow Soldiers from Battery E (Target Acquisition Battery), 101st Field Artillery Regiment, Massachusetts Army National Guard, at the Dighton-Rehoboth High School, here, Dec. 4, 2010.
For the Soldiers of Battery E, this was the day of their deployment ceremony; they will soon head to Iraq.
“Watch over them and protect them from all harm, physically, mentally and spiritually,” prayed Chaplain (2nd Lt.) Scott McGowan to an auditorium packed with Soldiers, their families, friends.
When he served on active duty, Adams deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now his fiancé will be there at the end of America’s time in Iraq as part of Operation New Dawn.
While this is Lewis’s first deployment, Adams isn’t worried about her safety.
“She has seventy guys in the unit to look out for her,” said Adams.
One of those seventy guys is Staff Sgt. Derek Beaulieu; this will be his third deployment.
Beaulieu has previously deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, but this deployment is very different. In August, he married his long time girlfriend and two weeks ago, he became a father.
“She [his wife] wants me to do this,” said Beaulieu, “She’s very supportive of me in the military.”
It’s been five years since Beaulieu returned home from his last deployment and he has been mentoring the new Soldiers.
“We share our experiences,” said Beaulieu, “We tell them the goods, the bads, what we’ve been through. That’s usually the best way to bring them up to speed … to get them ready for what it really is like.”
The unit is the second most deployed unit in the state. From 2002 – 2006, the Soldiers of Battery E have served in either Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Now you will support Operation New Dawn,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard, “and in so doing help the nation of Iraq, defend its people, build a credible security and defense mechanism and most importantly, help the population achieve the peaceful and stable democracy to which they, like people everywhere, are entitled.”
Aiding in building democracies is nothing new for the 101st Field Artillery Regiment. The regiment can trace its history back to founding of the American military on Dec. 13, 1636, when it began as the South Regiment. It saw service when this country was a colony of England and then helped in our own fight for independence. The men of this unit answered the nations call in the Civil War and both World Wars.
This tradition was reinforced for Kathleen Kelble as she attended the ceremony for her son, Pfc. Chad Kelble and his fellow Soldiers.
“We realized that his Great-Great- Grandfather was a Capt. in this same unit [101st Field Artillery Regiment] and served in France,” said Kelble, “In World War I.”
Janet Phillips, Pfc. Kelble’s grandmother, has her grandfather’s medals back home.
“It’s kind of funny,” said Pfc. Kelble, “Considering I just joined last year and the first unit I’m in happens to be a unit of my relatives back from World War I.”
This bond to the past seemed to comfort Kathleen Kelble, for as she and her son left the school she touched his face and said ”Poppa’s going to be watching over you.”