32nd Hospital Center soldiers head to Iraq
Published 8:41 am Thursday, February 16, 2023
By Chuck Cannon | Public Affairs Office
A casing of the colors ceremony for Fort Polk’s 32nd Hospital Center was held Feb. 9 in Warrior Gym as the unit prepared to deploy as part of Joint Task Force Medical Headquarters and Role 3 for Operation Inherent Resolve at the Baghdad, Iraq, Diplomatic Support Center.
Following an Army tradition, casing of the colors is demonstrated when a unit furls its colors in preparation for a deployment.
Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, commander, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk ,was the keynote speaker for the ceremony.
He reminded friends, family members and fellow soldiers that the deploying soldiers have displayed mental and physical toughness.
“From the individual and collective training they conducted here at Fort Polk, to training the full establishment of the field hospital during their Operation Medic Forge Exercise in August, to their phenomenal performance during a highly successful culminating training event at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, in November, this team excelled,” Gardner said. “The training these Soldiers have completed over the past year will ensure their mission is a success.”
Gardner said he is proud of the work done by the command and vanguard teams in preparation for the deployment.
“You have done a tremendous job leading your Soldiers and preparing them to provide exceptional care and save lives,” he said.
The family members of deploying soldiers were also recognized.
“I also offer my deepest thanks to the Families of our soldiers who are deploying soon,” Gardner said. “We do our job in the army with the love and support of our spouses, partners, children, Family members and other loved ones. What we do matters and so does your support.”
In closing Gardner quoted former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno: “The strength of our nation is our army; the strength of our Army is our Soldiers; the strength of our soldiers is our families, and that is what makes us Army strong.”
Next to speak was Col. Rose Freeman, 32nd HC commander, and she began by thanking those who showed their support by attending the ceremony and said that the deploying Soldiers were ready to do their duty.
“We arrive at this moment today having trained hard in preparation to execute the role as the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve Role 3,” she said. “As the commander of this unit, I recognize deployment readiness is critical to the rapid projection of forces and material to achieve our national objectives. Our role is now a part of that which will support our national objectives abroad and we will not take for granted the privilege we have been given.”
As a result of the “storming, forming and norming phases,” the unit is ready to answer the nation’s call.
“We accept responsibility of taking care of every Soldier, Airman, Marine and Navy service member that arrives at our facility, and promise to care for them with the utmost dignity and respect,” Freeman said. “Maneuver commanders can execute their mission because we stand ready to care for their troops, and we stand ready to support our coalition partners.”
Trish Shepard, spouse of Chaplain (Maj.) Carey Shephard, the 32nd HC chaplain, said that even though there have been deployments in the past, she’s a little more nervous this time.
“I think because I’m older, and I realize a little more what it’s about and where he’s at, but on the other hand I think, oh well, just another deployment,” she said.
The Shephard house will be quieter and meal planning different, but Shephard said it’s the little things she’ll miss.
“Just the two us (daughter Josie, 15) will be strange,” she said. “It will be difficult navigating some of the maintenance he usually does. Having my partner gone is going to be the big thing. You don’t realize how much they do until they’re not there.”
For Josie, it’s a special session she has with her dad that she’ll miss.
“We have this thing where I goose him in the side, and he usually shrieks like a goose,” she said “I’m allowed one a day, two if I don’t get a good reaction. I think that I’ll miss that the most.”
The deployment gives Col. Lee Freeman, JRTC and Fort Polk chief of staff, a different look at Family separation.
“This is a first for me,” Freeman, spouse of the 32nd HC commander, said. “Both of us have deployed numerous times individually, but we’re recently married, so this is the first deployment since we’ve been married.”
As the “dependent” with his spouse being the Soldier deploying, Freeman said he can empathize with the other spouses in the unit.
“I can now walk in the shoes of all the spouses in this room, seeing their loved one across the gym, and the respect, the love, and that sense of ‘I’m going to miss them,’” he said. “Half of my heart is going to be in Iraq for months.”
The last month has hit home what this will mean to Freeman.
“I’m going to miss that daily, face-to-face interaction, in the morning and evening,” he said. “Having that physical touch, holding her hand, looking her in the eye, being able to read her body language, have that support. She’s my rock and I rely on her for advice, and comfort and love. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”