By MATT MILNER and MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writers
OTTUMWA — The 833rd Engineer Company has moved out of Wisconsin and is deploying to Iraq.
The Army confirmed Monday that the unit has departed Fort McCoy, where it spent two months in training. They spent most of that time in a mock Forward Operating Base or FOB. The camp resembled the kind of base the 833rd will work from in Iraq.
FOBs consist of rows of tents surrounded by large berms, barbed wire and watchtowers. The entrances are designed to slow vehicles and prevent attacks.
Capt. Ben Lampe, the 833rd’s commanding officer, praised the training.
“As leaders, we owe it to our soldiers to provide tough, relevant training. Fort McCoy has provided this training environment, which will benefit the soldiers of the 833rd for sustained combat operations in Iraq,” he said.
The unit includes more than 100 area residents. About 60 percent deployed with the 833rd when it was part of the 224th Engineer Battalion.
Steven Dreher, the company’s first sergeant, said training played an important role in fusing the company into a coherent force.
“Our soldiers are from all across the state of Iowa and have come together to form cohesive teams,” he said. “Morale is high, and I am confident in our ability to carry out our mission.”
Back home in Ottumwa Monday, Dustin Gordy, 22, was feeling some mixed emotions about his brothers deploying.
“We’re very proud of them both,” said Dustin. “David is in the 833rd, Derek is in the Marines.”
Both are deploying to Iraq. David is leaving more family behind, and Dustin said he’s thinking of them, too.
“We fear for David because he has a wife and children, but worry about [David and Derek both],” Dustin said.
What he is not feeling, though, is complete helplessness, as he did do the one thing he could think of, and turned to his faith.
“I bought them both matching crucifixes when they [joined the military].”
His brothers have had the crosses with them during some pretty tough times, he said.
The family believes prayer can help, and so do their two servicemen. Dustin said the men have special soldier Bibles provided by their mom.
“They’re very strong in that [faith],” said Dustin, “but we pray for all the soldiers, not just our own.”