By Ed Brock
It's not hard for U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Deirdre Ryan to name the one thing she'll miss the most in her year-long deployment overseas.
That would be her 1?-year-old son Joshua Ryan Dean.
"I'm going to miss his second birthday," Ryan said Thursday as she and nine other members of the 427th Medical Battalion prepared to deploy. "It's going to be the hardest thing, definitely."
The 10 members of the unit will participate in operations Noble Eagle, part of the domestic Homeland Defense program, and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The 10 Reservists, who come from as far away as New Jersey and North Carolina, will report to their mobilization station at Fort Stewart near Savannah and go on from there to undisclosed locations.
Members of the 427th have been deployed in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Quattar, the Battalion's commander Col. Carrie Uttergarrett said. The 10 who were deployed Thursday are a mixed group, some who have been deployed before and some, like 20-year-old Ryan, who haven't.
"I try to have a cross section of experienced people and younger ones," Uttergarrett said. "You also have some people who can grow into leadership posts."
The 427th provides medical logistics for military operations.
Ryan said she is excited about the opportunity despite the separation from her family. The second hardest thing about the deployment was telling her mother, Donna Ryan of Forest Park.
"I know how my Mom reacts to things, so yes, I did wait to tell her. She was probably the last person I told," Ryan said.
Donna Ryan said she was just glad her daughter is going to somewhere other than the Middle East (she's not allowed to say exactly where) but she agreed that she did not take the news well.
"She joined up for college money," Donna Ryan said.
Her other daughter, 18-year-old Crystal Ryan, has already joined the Navy for roughly the same reason.
"They're not sending me overseas or anything," Crystal Ryan said.
Deirdre Ryan works at the Home Depot on Jonesboro Road in Forest Park as well.
There was one other Clayton County resident in the group, Staff Sgt. Chandler Haynes of Riverdale. His family lives in Fort Lauderdale and couldn't make it to the farewell ceremony.
This is the second deployment for Haynes, who is single, and the hardest part for him is "probably just the uncertainty of it, where everything stands."
The Detachment Commander Capt. Eric D. Hughes summed up that uncertainty in his address to the men and women now under his command. On March 1 his commander at the 3297 U.S. Army Hospital in Charlotte told him simply "pack your bags," unable to answer Hughes' questions about where he would be going and how long he would be gone.
"I immediately put my life on hold, had to talk to my employer and run around as my soldiers did as well," Hughes said.
But he added that the theme of the deployment for him and his soldiers is opportunity.
In her comments, Uttergarrett told the soldiers that they were important and recounted how the country is now taking a stand against terrorism.
"Each and every one of you are now taking your own stand," Uttergarrett said.