- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

The send-off parties and farewell dinners have come and gone. The children have been prepared with long talks. And, in some cases, phone service at home has been temporarily turned off. It's a familiar ritual for the sailors and soldiers who make their living defending the country, this suspension of everyday life. But for members of Maryland's National Guard — the doctors, lawyers and laborers who signed up for two weekends a month and 15 days a year — this leave-taking is something new.
Today, 267 members of the 29th Light Infantry Division leave for Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, for six months — its most significant deployment since World War II. Their mission: to enforce an uneasy peace in a place of centuries-old ethnic hostilities, the cradle of World War I.
Among them are Staff Sgt. Preston Curvey Jr.; Spc. Tabitha Salinas; Chief Warrant Officer Roger Weaver; 1st Sgt. Raymond Arpin; and Lt. Col. Ron Price.
These five soldiers have agreed to share their stories with The Washington Times before, during and after the mission.
The lives left behind don't take a six-month hiatus. Graduations are missed, weddings rescheduled, birthdays celebrated alone.
They leave a land of shopping malls and ballparks for a war-torn region still considered a combat zone after the civil war of the early 1990s. The work, however, is often routine and slow, leaving the part-time soldiers with lots of down time to think about what they're missing back home.
As each flies out of Fort Dix in New Jersey today, they take with them comforting thoughts of home and a common uncertainty about what lies ahead.

Staff Sgt. Preston Curvey Jr.
Staff Sgt. Preston Curvey Jr. has been doing his homework.
The Maryland National Guard infantryman has armed himself with a cache of Bosnian phrases and analyzed some of the major highlights of the Dayton peace accord.
He also has taken time to listen to an Army-issued compact disc with instructions on how to act and talk when out among the citizens around their base, Camp Comanche, about 30 miles north of Sarajevo.
And though there will be a Burger King and a Starbucks on base, he knows this won't be like his D.C. neighborhood.
For instance, offering a cigarette to one man without offering one to every adult present could be construed as favoritism toward one side.
It's important stuff to know if half your time is spent outside the base in the wild countryside.
"I need to know how to deal with people, not just my soldiers but those out there who are suffering," says Sgt. Curvey, speaking by phone from his parents' Wheaton home before his goodbye dinner.
"I have to be on my best behavior at all times," he says, adding that any infraction could reflect poorly on his entire country.
On most days in Bosnia, Sgt. Curvey, 45, will don his flak jacket, helmet, boots and M-16 with 180 rounds. He will set up checkpoints, keep a tally on the firearms kept in the region's weapons-storage areas and assist with the refugee relocation.
He is frustrated by the mines, he says, because as an infantry soldier he has been taught to take the shortest path. In Bosnia, he will be forced to stay to the roads — or bring a mine-clearing team with him.
"I might be the victim of a mine," he says matter-of-factly when asked about the danger.
The Guardsman, who is a long-distance tractor-trailer driver in his normal life, has been given an added task as a planner. He is the only enlisted man in a 17-member "think tank" that determines the feasibility of directives that come from his general.
Sgt. Curvey, who is saving up to buy his own rig, has been in and out of the Guard since 1974. He served in the Persian Gulf war and six years ago was deployed to the Sinai Peninsula for a one-year peacekeeping mission.
The infantryman is single — he was married once, but it "just didn't work out" — and lives in a house he owns on Capitol Hill. He wishes he didn't have to miss the new lineup of television shows.
Sgt. Curvey comes from a long line of soldiers and a Southern Baptist background, but converted to Islam. He says Muslims have been removed from their homes over there, which he admits bothers him.
It is something he has been preparing for, with the rest of his studying, and he's confident that his feelings won't interfere with his work.
"Soldiers don't have the right to show their political or religious views."

Spc. Tabitha Salinas
Spc. Tabitha Salinas' life is 6-year-old Tyler.
The 21-year-old single mother loves eating dinner with her son or taking him ice skating at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Their favorite mother-son activity is a day at King's Dominion amusement park in Virginia.
Leaving her little boy in the care of her family for six months will be torturous.
"He's my only child, and he's attached to me at the hip," Spc. Salinas says, hinting that she may take with her a stuffed Army bear she once gave to Tyler.
Spc. Salinas already knows about separation and sacrifice: When she returned from her six-month basic training three years ago, Tyler had grown so much he seemed like a different person. And while training for this mission in Louisiana, Spc. Salinas missed his kindergarten graduation.
There will be other milestones while she's away. Spc. Salinas' mother will videotape Tyler boarding the bus for Day One of first grade, so her daughter can watch it months from now.
"He understands that I'm going over to help other people," Spc. Salinas says. "He knows I'll be gone for Christmas. He's going to send me my presents."
However difficult this long-term separation between mother and child will be, deployment to Bosnia for a woman who has never left the country is still the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I can't wait. I'm, like, superexcited," she says, sitting in a boardroom inside the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore, where she works full time.
"I survived all the seven or eight shots," she said jokingly of the vaccinations she received. "I think I can survive a few months out of the country."
Spc. Salinas, a short, independent woman with a strong Maryland accent and a high school diploma, lives within earshot of the Baltimore Ravens' stadium in a house she bought at age 18. Her mother lives with her, and twin sister Tiffany, also in the Guard, is moving in while Spc. Salinas is away.
Tiffany Salinas didn't want to go and won't have to — she gave birth to son Dominick about a month ago and is therefore exempt from the mission.
Spc. Salinas works full time as a military personnel technician in charge of processing discharges, transfers, enlistments and promotions. "I basically take care of the soldiers," she says.
Overseas, she will work in the administrative offices, doling out leaves, relaying emergency messages and "maintaining 85 percent strength on the ground at all times."
Tyler is not all that Spc. Salinas will miss. There are the comforts of home, like her waterbed and her beloved Ravens — she attended every home game last season.

Warrant Officer Roger Weaver
Serving his country will be costly for Chief Warrant Officer Roger Weaver, literally.
The Baltimore banker will not make quite as much ordering around pilots for the next few months.
"I will be taking a pay cut," says Warrant Officer Weaver, an Army veteran who has flown helicopters in Vietnam.
Warrant Officer Weaver is a vice president and asset manager working in the commercial leasing and equipment division for Allfirst Bank. He has worked for the same company for 23 years.
A consummate professional, Warrant Officer Weaver, 57, showed up for work the day before he left for Aberdeen, Md., for final preparations. And he will be available for e-mail consultation with the home office.
His company will hire outside agencies and consultants to handle some of the work.
"This deployment is probably toughest on my co-workers because they will have to pick up the slack," he says from behind his desk in his downtown office..
Warrant Officer Weaver, an avid reader of historical books and a Cal Ripken fan, exudes an air of confidence and toughness — a man accustomed to being relied upon.
He lives in Ellicott City in a massive house with his second wife, Becky, "a stay-at-home mom with no kids." Social worker daughter Gina, 33, and civil engineer son Rob, 22, are on their own.
Deployment "has got pluses and minuses. It is an exciting thing. It's also a very disrupting thing. My wife has been through this before," he says of Becky, to whom he's been married 23 years.
He could be speaking for all his fellow soldiers when he says, "I feel very honored to go to fulfill a national mission. "It's something I volunteered for."
Warrant Officer Weaver went on active duty in 1966, attended flight school and was shot down — but not captured — during a one-year combat tour as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. He has been a member of the Maryland National Guard since 1970. Two years ago, he flew humanitarian missions over El Salvador in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.
"Emotionally, the hardest part is probably the first three or four days, that's my experience," he says. "The reality of the separation really hits you. After that you get into a routine, start doing your job and soldier on."
While on this mission, he will be responsible for the training and proficiency of all of the aviators in the command.
"I'm just expecting to work a lot," he says. "I'm expecting the weather to be much like Central Pennsylvania in the winter — cold, damp, a fair amount of snow." That's what he can expect: Temperatures in Bosnia-Herzegovina vary between 35.6 and 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit during the coldest season, from January to March.
"After all, they did have a Winter Olympics there."

1st Sgt. Raymond Arpin
Life was hectic around 1st Sgt. Raymond Arpin's house in rural Harford County recently, but it had nothing to do with his impending departure to Bosnia.
Last-minute preparations for his daughter's wedding left Sgt. Arpin, a 32-year veteran of the Maryland National Guard, with little time to think about the work awaiting him in Bosnia.
Rebecca, 25, had always wanted to get married in the fall. She happened to choose this fall.
Plans changed, though, when her father — a heating and cooling technician when not serving in the Guard — was told to report for final prep by early September for eventual deployment overseas. The family moved the wedding to Sept. 1.
But again, plans changed, and Sgt. Arpin's superiors ordered him to report on Aug. 30.
He quickly wrote a request to plead his case, stressing that about 75 relatives and friends were coming from out of town, including the groom from Johnstown, Pa.
"The Guard always has said they were family-oriented," Sgt. Arpin says, rocking slowly in a chair on his front porch. "That's the first time I ever had to test it."
The two sides reached a compromise — a four-day emergency leave — and Sgt. Arpin gave his only daughter away at the same Baltimore church where he married his wife, the Shrine of the Little Flower Roman Catholic Church.
Sgt. Arpin, 53, is a true family man who will miss drinking a cold beer, tinkering with his model trains and playing in his lush yard with his two golden retrievers, Mickey and Abby. He often breaks the tension over his leaving with a joke and is protective of wife Roberta.
He joined the Guard when "the Vietnam War was hot and heavy." He liked what he was doing, not enough to do it every day, but enough to stay with it.
Sgt. Arpin has never been out of the country, except to Canada, and rarely leaves home for an extended time.
"Six months is a bit long. I haven't been away from home for six months since basic training," he says.
Still, he's luckier than most: He'll have a big piece of his life with him in Bosnia.
Only son Raymond, 22, a student at Towson University and an aviation mechanic with the Guard, will accompany his father on the long trip as part of the same unit.
"He made a lot of sacrifices to do this," Sgt. Arpin says. "He's missing three semesters from school."
While in Bosnia, Sgt. Arpin will oversee maintenance of Black Hawk, Huey and Cobra helicopters, everything from general upkeep to radar repair.
But what could a peacekeeping mission throw at a man who was able to juggle a wedding, almost twice?
"My job is actually very boring," he says "As long as I have good people under me, which I do, I don't have anything to do."

Lt. Col. Ron Price
It's time for Lt. Col. Ron Price to substitute recreational danger with professional danger.
The avid rock climber, skydiver and rescue diver for his local volunteer fire department is somewhat reluctantly giving it all up for a new kind of adrenaline rush — life in a combat zone.
"It's always possible," he says, referring to the potential for a flare-up. "The U.S. forces over there don't stay in their compounds. They get out and about and enforce the Dayton peace accord. "They do the best they can to prevent loss of life."
Col. Price, 49, a divorced helicopter pilot from Columbia, Md., wasn't supposed to join the mission. He helped train others, and because of his expertise, got called up himself.
"The country has decided that it needs me to go there, and I feel that since they have invested a lot of money and training in me, that's probably a good thing," says Col. Price, who spoke softly and deliberately from behind his desk at the National Transportation Safety Board headquarters.
"I investigate aircraft crashes to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident," says Col. Price, an aerospace engineer for the NTSB who last year searched the waters off Massachusetts for wreckage of EgyptAir Flight 990. "We look at pieces, parts and take measurements and find out how things broke, how they're supposed to break."
Some of the other engineers have accepted his caseload for the next six months.
Col. Price moved to the D.C. area in 1988 and joined the Maryland National Guard the following year.
After graduation from the Air Force Academy, Col. Price served from 1974 to 1979 as a fighter pilot based at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. While with the Ohio National Guard, he flew a three-week mission to Honduras in 1988.
"Three weeks is palatable. Six months is harsh," he says.
In Bosnia, he will coordinate American aviators with Russian, French, British, Turk and Polish forces, among others. He recently finished Black Hawk school, so he may be called upon to pilot a helicopter from time to time.
Col. Price won't be seen off by family as he embarks from Fort Dix.
His former wife lives in Colorado with son Tyler, 15, who would have moved in with his father had the deployment not cropped up.
His other son, 18-year-old Jason, has just begun his freshman year at Colorado State University. His father missed his high school graduation and birthday because of training in Louisiana.
"They both understand and they're really good kids," Col. Price says. "But they still don't like it."


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