Albany sailors deploy for Iraq - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany sailors deploy for Iraq

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July 6, 2004

Albany - Every day, we hear about the U.S. troops injured in Iraq, but you don't often hear about the men and women who take care of the wounded. Hundreds of sailors with the Naval Medics Corps are serving overseas as doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel. Tuesday, five sailors from the Albany Marine Base deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In the darkness of the early morning, five sailors arrived to the Marine Corps Logistics Base one by one to leave on a six-month deployment to Iraq. "It was surprising. We weren't expecting it," said Hospitalman First Class Bobby Pilgrim. The sailors found just 12 days ago they were leaving.

"I have a friend that's over there already," said Tracy Johnson, US Navy. "He's assured me that the job I'll be doing is in a pretty safe positions. So if all goes well, I should be safe."

There were no tearful good-byes - just a kiss. "Before I came here I was on board a ship, so they were kind of used to it. We said our good-byes last night," said Pilgrim.

Most of the men spent the holiday weekend with their families and said good-bye. "A little nervous, but I'm all right," said Hospitalman Oziea Wallace. Wallace already knows what to expect in Iraq. This is his second tour. "It was total chaos, people running in the streets and gunfire over your head." But, he thinks this time it will be safer. "But I think it will be better this time, the Marines have been over there a while now. They have good checkpoints, so the area is more secure."

For the next six months, these sailors will take care of sick and injured troops with the 4th Marine Air Wing. They're laboratory, X-ray, and pharmaceutical technicians, as well as grunt corpsman and preventive medicine personnel. They won't be on the front lines, but their duty is just as important - keeping those fighting terror strong and healthy.

The sailors drove to Jacksonville Tuesday morning and will leave for Camp Pendleton, California later this week. After a month of field medicine training there, they'll head to Iraq.

Posted at 9:50AM by kathryn.murchison@walb.com