Hundreds of family and friends, and the wider community filled the Cheyenne Civic Center to say farewell to the 129 soldiers of the 115th Field Artillery Brigade who have prepared a better part of 2019 for a nine-month deployment to the Middle East on the afternoon of July 29.
In addressing the crucial mission for the brigade, nicknamed “Cowboy Thunder,” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said to the combat troops that his great uncle, Gen. George Patton, always told his dad, “better to fight for something than to live for nothing.”
Wyoming’s commander in chief added that it was important to also realize the importance of family. “Families are the most crucial element of any fighting force,” Gordon said, asking soldiers to call upon them in their time of need as they move through this challenging part of their lives.
Following with the theme of family, Wyoming Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Greg Porter, said that “without the support of our families, I don’t think we’d have a military. Without a military, we simply don’t have a country. We can’t say thank you enough.”
While describing the unit’s combat mission to “destroy, defeat, or disrupt the enemy” Maj. Gen. Porter also thanked employers for their support.
The Cheyenne-based unit, which specializes in firing a multiple rocket launcher or High Mobility Rocket System, began its deployment journey 10 months ago. Col. Kent M. Porter, the 115th’s commander, said that’s when the unit attended a “warfighter” simulation in Indiana.
“That was getting our soldiers as close to war without going to war,” Col. Porter said. “And what we tried to do is tell the soldiers, especially those soldiers deploying for the first time, was this is the environment you’re going to be in. Hopefully, what I’ve trained them for will get them to the point that it will be underwhelming for them. That is my goal. I don’t want it to be overwhelming. I want them to be ready for it. And we’ll find out here in the next month and half if we’re successful in that mission.”
One of those soldiers deploying for the first time, fire control officer Capt. Craig Heilig, said he’ll be supervising the fire control section. “Whenever fire missions come in, we send them out to the different HIMARS to execute them. I’ve been wanting to deploy for a while, and the opportunity was here. I’ve been doing this job for a while, so it just made sense to do it.”
Heilig serves full time as the Wyoming Army National Guard’s safety occupational health manager, in Cheyenne. “I’m kind of excited. I’ll miss the family. I have little kids, you always miss the family. I’m excited to go do my part. This is what I signed up for, to go and do my part.”
Another soldier deploying for the first time, Sgt. 1st Class Adrienne Gibbs, who will provide administrative support, said there was a shortfall identified at the end of April. “It was one of the opportunities that they needed someone in my career field. I’ve never deployed and it was an opportunity I may never get again. So, I went ahead and volunteered.”
Gibbs, who joined the unit in May said, “Everyone has their mission, they’re super proud of it here. I’m one of those that gets to help send some of those rockets down range. Although we may not be the ones pushing the buttons or loading the rockets, to be a part of that, it’s a way to be involved. It may not have all the glory, but it’s about being able to support everybody else out there.”
Gibbs added, “There are newborns out in the audience, I have two little girls, but I realize that I’m making a sacrifice, but there’s someone who is making a greater sacrifice. It’s bonded us together. You know what, we are leaving our families, so we’re all going to be a family over there, to take care of each other and help each other out.”