18-year Guard veteran headed to Iraq

December 26, 2003|GARY MOYERS

After 18 years in the National Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Ricardo Aranda is headed to a combat zone.

"It's something I've been trained for, and it's what we're supposed to do," said the Danville resident who moved here from Texas seven years ago. "You keep the thought in the back of your mind the whole time you're training that you might have to go, and when the time actually comes you deal with it."

Aranda is not the only one dealing with his deployment; his wife and three teenage children are facing the fact that their husband and father will be gone for approximately one year. The Department of Defense recently announced that Army National Guard or Reserve units in theater will serve one year in the theater.

"They're sad about me leaving, naturally, but they understand this is sometimes part of the deal," he said. "We've been spending all my holiday leave time hanging out, just staying together. We decided not to travel during Christmas because we didn't want to waste any of our time together."


Aranda said his children, one girl and two boys, have a unique attitude about his career in the Guard.

"They all say they want to join the Guard when they're old enough," he said. "They'd join right now if they could."

Aranda is attached to the 2123rd Transportation Company and was called up in early December.

"We haul heavy equipment, like tanks, artillery, things like that," he said. "Our job is to move the equipment to the various staging areas."

He has been home on Christmas leave after spending two weeks at the Wendell Ford Training Center in Greenville. Aranda and his unit will leave for Fort Campbell Dec. 28 for more training prior to deployment as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"This will be my first overseas deployment in a hostile zone," he said. "I went to Germany in August, attached to the 410th, but that was for routine detail."

Aranda prepared himself and his family for deployment earlier this year, but a promotion kept him in the States.

"It's funny, I almost went overseas a year ago with the 223rd Military Police unit out of Louisville," he said. "Just before we got our orders to deploy, I was promoted and moved to a slot with the 2123rd in Richmond."

Aranda's job with the 2123rd mirrors what he does when not on duty.

"It's a coincidence," he said. "My job in the Guard is in food service, and in civilian life I'm in the food preparation group at Northpoint Training Center. I've been there for five years."

The 2123rd contains 299 members, and Aranda said some other Danville residents will be attached to the unit when it leaves in January.

"There are some members of the 410th from Danville who are attached to the transportation company," he said. Another Danville unit, the 217th Quartermaster Corps, specializing in water purification, split into two groups when deployed to Iraq and is expected to return home in April and May, 2004. Both groups are still in Iraq.

Aranda emphatically shakes his head when asked if his impending deployment to a part of the world where American soldiers are still being killed has shaken his commitment to the National Guard.

"No way," he said. "The Guard has been very good to me, and this country has been very good to me. This is what I've been trained to do."

He said he has no plans to leave the Guard once his one-year deployment is finished.

"I plan on staying in another 10 years," he said. "It's home to me."

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