By Brandon Walker
Daily Times Leader
Hundreds of American flags waved in the early morning sun, and police sirens blared announcing the departure of several local heroes.
With that, West Point’s 223rd Engineering Battalion, loaded in four charter buses, turned right onto Main Street and began to head toward the city limits, on their way to a brief stop in Texas before making the trip to Afghanistan to do their part in Operation: Enduring Freedom.
On Tuesday morning, hundreds lined the bus route from the National Guard Armory to the city limits, as the city of West Point turned out to bid its soldiers farewell. The route included passes by four area schools, and then cut through the heart of town as a crowd of a few hundred waved flags and shouted their encouragement to the battalion, which included about a dozen West Point natives. Lt. Col. Michael Cleveland, commander of the 223rd Engineer Battalion, which includes units from West Point, Aberdeen and Houston, said a total of 600 soldiers are being deployed, about a dozen of which are natives of West Point.
Though they may be nervous, they’re ready, he said. Training for soldiers, or warriors as they are referred to within the Battalion, is ongoing and hasn’t ceased since the 223rd’s deployment in 2003, he said.
“I would say that we have a much more combat experienced pool of warriors prior to our last deployment,” Cleveland said. “In addition, we have to be prepared to respond to the Nation’s need at anytime both for domestic and foreign contingencies. This deployment is just one mission that we are prepared to accomplish when our Nation needs us. That’s what we do.”