Dublin-based National Guard unit off to Iraq

August 21, 2008 7:11:19 PM PDT
On the same day Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced the possibility of a withdrawal from Iraq, another wave of California soldiers headed to the war zone.

The National Guard troops were once considered citizen soldiers, weekend warriors ready for crisis here at home. But since the war in Iraq began, thousands have faced combat. Now it is Pfc. Sondra Orchard's turn. She is a full-time single mother of two little girls.

"It's a mix a emotions, excited, nervous, a little scared -- and worried about them [her daughters]," Orchard said.

It is Orchard's first deployment; Sgt. Ken Mattingly has been there three times and said these tours of duty are now just part of the job description.

"[It] doesn't get any easier," Mattingly said. "You get attached, I have a new baby, a year and a half, so it's kind of rough, but again, it's one of those things you have to prepare for."

Mattingly was with the battalion the last, year-long, assignment in Baghdad in 2005, part of the largest deployment of the California National Guard since the Korean War.

Congressman Jerry McNerney gave the men and women a send-off, but the most comforting good byes came from their loved ones.

"It's an honor for my husband to be doing this, it's his jib and he's our hero," Betty Alfaro said.

B Company, First Battalion, 184 Infantry will head first to Wisconsin for intensive training, then onto Iraq.


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