Jerry Max Stroud Sr. held his 3-year-old grandson in check Thursday as they watched the boy’s dad march with the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, readying to deploy to Kosovo.
This will be Maj. Jerry Max Stroud Jr.’s fourth deployment overseas. His proud father said his son loves it and probably will not retire until he is forced.
The major said he’s equally proud of his parents who help watch his three children while he’s away, the second of which was born during his deployment to Iraq.
More than 1,000 family members, friends and military vets attended the sendoff ceremony at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh for about 320 soldiers of the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Headquarters Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 252nd Armored Regiment and Alpha Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 252nd Armored Regiment.
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Members of the N.C. Army National Guard unit will stop at Fort Bliss in Texas and in Germany before arriving for their one-year deployment in Kosovo later this month.
The 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team is comprised of units from North Carolina and West Virginia and nicknamed the “Old Hickory,” in honor of President Andrew Jackson.
The unit’s commander, Col. Vernon Simpson Jr., told the audience about the importance of the mission in Kosovo and the unique nature of the team assembled for the task.
“Our mission is to provide a safe and secure environment to protect the United States’ vital interests in the Balkans,” Simpson said. “That’s primarily the prevention of foreign influence and violent extremism in a somewhat lawless region, which in turn will push public sentiment toward things that threaten our security and stability in the Balkans and can quickly spill over into other areas.”
Another element of the mission is to prevent more human suffering caused by years of genocide. The unit is deploying as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led mission of international peacekeepers that have been in the Balkans since Serbia’s campaign of ethnic cleansing in the late 1990s.
“The security environment in Kosovo is complex, with numerous actors all with competing interests on the future of an independent Kosovo,” Simpson said.
The colonel noted that the unit’s members have special skills from their civilian lives as engineers, lawyers, police officers and other professions to work with various levels of local government in Kosovo.
Army Brigadier General James Ernst, N.C. National Guard assistant adjutant general-maneuver, offered words of encouragement to the soldiers and their families.
“The strength of our nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our soldier. The strength of the soldier is the family,” Ernst said. “We are one team and interdependent.”
Often, families left at home have a more difficult time than the soldiers deployed, Ernst said. He urged them to seek any form of help from North Carolina’s National Guard State Family Programs.
N.C. Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry told the soldiers they have answered a higher calling to protect the human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“The pursuit of happiness is not the pursuit of pleasure, but it’s the pursuit of moral excellence,” Perry said. “That is your calling, and that is why we honor you.”