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184th headed to Baghdad

By Ed Brock

Army Maj. Jerry Meneses has barely had time to get used to life in Stockbridge, and now he's on his way to Baghdad.

He's lived in Stockbridge with his wife, Army Maj. Christine Meneses, and 18-month-old daughter Jenny for just a couple of months. Monday they said goodbye, and Jerry Meneses, with about the 30 other members of the 184th Explosive Ordnance Battalion, was headed out to war.

"We put our daughter in day care, and off I go," Jerry Meneses said.

Deployments are never easy, especially before Christmas, but both Meneseses are used to them.

"That's what we do," Christine Meneses said. "We've been preparing for this for about a year, so it's no surprise."

Members of the 184th, many of whom, like Meneses, were deployed to Afghanistan last year, filed into the chapel at Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park for a deployment ceremony Monday morning. The 184th is a part of the 52nd Ordnance Group based at Fort Gillem that oversees the disposal of explosive ordnance.

The 184th will be providing command and control for all Army bomb and disposal activities in the area of operation.

"This war in Iraq is unlike any war we've ever experienced," said 52nd Ordnance Group Commander Col. Mike Davis.

Davis told the soldiers to have confidence in their leadership and their training and to come back alive. He told the families that they should have the same confidence and the troops "know how to do what they've been asked to do."

"Finally, I ask you to remember that you're part of a much larger organization that takes care of its own," Davis said.

Army Brig. Gen. Jim Bisson thanked the soldiers for their service and for their upcoming efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"That's what it's all about, helping others get the freedom we enjoy every day," Bisson said.

Jerry Meneses said he expects to be deployed for about a year, but he's hoping to take some leave in June when the couple's second child is due.

"But nothing's guaranteed," Meneses said.

Other families were saying good-bye as well Monday. Stockbridge resident Sgt. Jason Aberman's wife of nearly six months Tiffany, both 22, along with his mother Constance Bentley and sister Andrea Aberman, both of Daytona Beach, Fla., came to send him off.

"I'm proud of him, but it's upsetting," Tiffany Aberman said.

Bentley said she was very proud of her son, and that she has met many of the soldiers in the 184th and she trusts them with her son's well-being.

"I've watched him turn into a wonderful young man," Bentley said.

Sgt. Aberman said he's ready to go, though he will miss his family.

"I'm kind of excited to see what it's like over there," Aberman said.

Both the Abermans and the Meneseses said they celebrated Christmas early. Meanwhile, members of the Army National Guard 48th Infantry Brigade will get to spend the holidays at home before their deployment begins in January.

About 1,900 members of the 48th reported Monday for initial processing at Army Forts Stewart, Jackson, Gordon and Benning, Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Driscoll said. They are mostly the leaders of individual units within the brigade and are undergoing the processing early, so they can help out when the other more than 2,000 members of the brigade report on Jan. 3.

That first group will finish their processing in about two weeks and will be allowed to spend the holidays at home before reporting back. Also, Driscoll said a group of 45 senior members of the brigade left on Monday for a two-week visit to Iraq and Kuwait.

"They're actually getting their first visit and getting a glimpse of the environment they'll be going into," Driscoll said. "I'm sure they'll learn a lot."

Several Clayton and Henry county residents are in the 48th.

Headquartered in Macon, the 48th Brigade has units in more than 30 towns throughout Georgia. Its components include the 1st and 2nd Infantry Battalions in Winder and Albany respectively, the 108th Armor Battalion in Calhoun, the 118th Field Artillery Battalion in Savannah, the 148th Support Battalion in Forsyth, the 648th Engineering Battalion in Statesboro and the 248th Military Intelligence Company at Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park.