- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division left for a possible war with Iraq last night, but with the only emotions on their sleeve being professional pride and a low-key confidence.
"It's a job. I'm going over to do a job and bring all my soldiers back safely," said Staff Sgt. Jessie L. Ponder, who leads a chemical warfare company. "I'm very confident. We train year-round to do our jobs and be professional."
At approximately 10:50 last night, 250 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry left for the Middle East on a Boeing 777 from Savannah's Hunter Army Airfield, about 30 miles from Fort Stewart, where the division's 1st Brigade is stationed.
Col. William F. Grimsley, 1st Brigade commander, also maintained confidence in the division, which is known as the "tip of the spear." The 3rd Infantry is stocked with officers who fought in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, including Col. Grimsley.
"This is what we do for a living," said the colonel, who will go to Kuwait later this month. "We deploy routinely all over the world. We know how to do this and we train to do this."
Capt. Cary Adams, a 25-year-old soldier who bid farewell to his fiancee yesterday, said he learned he was leaving only on Saturday.
"But I'm not surprised," he said. "A lot of my buddies are already over there, and it just felt right to be going over there [myself]."
The soldiers will arrive in Kuwait over the next 30 days, where they will join a squadron of 21 Apache attack helicopters that arrived in October.
Military officials said last night's was the first of several deployments from Fort Stewart, which will continue until the entire 3rd Infantry Division is in the Middle East. About 4,500 of the division's 20,000 soldiers are already in Kuwait, and the Army has been amassing heavy weaponry there for the past several months.
Some of the younger soldiers that shipped out last night, such as Spc. Stephen White, had worries, but not of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's vaunted Republican Guard.
"I'm just worried I'm gonna be bored," said Spc. White, who married fiancee Christina on Saturday.
"I'm gonna miss her," the Richmond native said of month-old-daughter Abagail, who will be staying at Fort Stewart with her mother. "I'm mad that I'm gonna end up missing my 21st birthday."
Pvt. 1st Class Melissa Snyder from Sunbury, Pa., said that "the biggest thing I'm worried about is sleeping in the tents."
Still, some family members had other emotions.
Staff Sgt. Ponder said farewell yesterday to his 8-year-old son, Jessie Jr., his 13-year-old daughter, Toni, and his mother, who will take care of the children in Georgia.
"My son came and saw me off," said the 31-year-old from Miami. "He is a little upset. He knows what Dad is going to do."

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