FORT BLISS, Texas — FORT BLISS, Texas — About 1,500 Fort Bliss soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan in the coming weeks to support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the Army announced Thursday.
The troops are from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division stationed at Fort Bliss.
"The Ready First Brigade is well-trained, well-led and fully prepared for the challenges this mission will bring," said Maj. Gen. Pat White, commanding general of 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. "The brigade proved itself a disciplined and lethal force during a rigorous training program, and I am confident they will accomplish their mission in stellar fashion."
The Army said the deployment is part of a regular rotation of forces.
Operation Freedom’s Sentinel began on January 1, 2015, and its focus is training, advising and assisting Afghan troops as well as counter-terrorism efforts.
The 1,500 Fort Bliss soldiers will be joined by nearly 4,600 other troops from across the country deploying to Afghanistan and Kuwait in coming months.
The Afghanistan war is now in its 15th year. Some 1,865 American troops have died in that time span and 20,224 others have been injured, according to military experts. The war has also cost $115 billion.
Lauren Irvine is a military wife whose husband is currently in his third deployment. She says the first time was difficult.
“The first deployment, I think, you don't know what to expect. You can prepare as much as you want to but we were brand-new to military life,” Irvine said.
John Irvine is a troop commander of a Calvary unit currently stationed in Kuwait.
Adding to that challenge, the couple found out they were expecting their first daughter just a month and a half before John deployed.
“It's challenging but we knew it was definitely high possibility that when he commissioned this was going to happen often,” Irvine said.
The couple now has two daughters, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. She says the weight of playing both mother and father when her husband is deployed can be difficult.
“We have small children so sometimes it can be draining and exhausting to do it on your own but really the benefits of military life are so much more than separation,” Irvine said.
John’s absence also takes an emotional toll on the couple’s children.
“There's definitely hard times, right. I mean she doesn't get to have her daddy ever soccer games or her dance recital's or her first day of kindergarten and they just had a Dads and Donuts day at school and she didn't get to participate in that with him,” Irvine said.
Irvine says having a spouse deployed during the holidays can also be difficult.
“I'm just keeping the tradition alive, especially for the girls. I mean I'm grateful that I have them to enjoy the season with and to go do fun things,” she said.
But, she’s thankful that technology like FaceTime and the internet allow her children to talk to John regularly.
“We’re very lucky that we will most likely get to FaceTime John on Christmas and he'll get to be there to watch the Santa present and kind of open gifts,” Irvine said.
Irvine says the important thing is to stay busy and find support groups who can help. She is the leader of her husband’s troop’s family readiness group.
“It really helps to have meetings and bring the spouses of the families of our particular unit together because we are all going through the same thing,” Irvine said.
The most important thing Irvine says, though, is to remember the sacrifice members of the military make and be proud that they were willing to serve.
“I think it's just important to support your soldier and really just be proud of what they're doing because many people don't answer the call to serve and we are very fortunate that they did step up to the plate,” she said.