Fort Riley units ready to ship out for Iraq

? Kelly Cunningham and her two young children gathered Thursday at Fort Riley along with dozens of other families bidding farewell to 3,000 soldiers preparing for deployment.

When Cunningham’s husband, Wade, departs for Iraq sometime within the next two weeks, it will be the first time he has been away from his 1-year-old daughter, Riley, and 6-year-old son, Tyler.

“Tyler sees what happens on TV, and he doesn’t want him to go,” she said. “I had to tell him that he will be OK, he will come back OK.”

The ceremony Thursday at Marshall Army Airfield at Fort Riley honored the deploying soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The ceremony initially was scheduled to include all 3,000 soldiers at Cavalry Parade Field, but rain forced the ceremony inside and reduced the program to just a portion of the deploying brigade.

Brig. Gen. Dennis Hardy, commanding general of the 24th Infantry Division and Fort Riley, said the 1st Brigade soldiers would take on a dual task: advancing civil process in Iraq and supporting existing military efforts. Hardy said the task was difficult.

1st Brigade Commander Col. Buck Connor said the brigade was ready for any situation.

“You ask yourself as a commander, ‘Are we prepared to go to war?”‘ he said. “I’m confident that I and this installation have done everything possible. We’re ready.”

Maj. Charles Robinette, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, talks with his sons Duncan, 6, and Ethan, 2, after a deployment ceremony at Fort Riley. The ceremony Thursday honored 3,000 soldiers who are set to deploy within the next two weeks in support of military troops in Iraq.