ANCHORAGE - Army wife Mackenzie Norfleet has a strategy for keeping her husband safe during his one-year deployment in Iraq, where he will patrol the dangerous streets of south Baghdad.
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"Prayer," said Norfleet, the 23-year-old wife of Spc. Michael Norfleet, who is headed to Iraq as part of a 3,500 person deployment of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson in Anchorage.
Norfleet stood with three other Army wives in the rain Wednesday as a deployment ceremony got under way to honor their husbands and the other brigade soldiers, many of them going to Iraq for the first time.
Norfleet's husband spent more than 10 months in Afghanistan and came back a "changed person" because of what he experienced there, she said.
"It is a different ballgame," Norfleet said of Iraq. "He is not going to be doing what he is trained to do. He basically will be playing policeman."
The paratroopers will be based in Baghdad where they will work with Iraqi security forces to patrol the streets, look for roadside bombs and battle the insurgents, said Army spokesman Maj. Kirk Gohlke. An advance group of about 200 soldiers has already gone to Iraq. Most of the other soldiers will be leaving in the next week or two.
The deployment will bring the number of Alaska-based active duty troops serving in Iraq to about 8,000. Another 140 Alaska National Guard troops are serving in Iraq, and another 600 Guardsmen will leave for Iraq in about two weeks after training at Camp Shelby, Miss.
Maj. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of U.S. Army Alaska, addressed about 3,000 troops dressed in camouflage, tan combat boots and maroon berets lined up in formation on a field at Fort Richardson.
Jacoby told the soldiers that the enemy was "absolutely beatable" but they would have to be alert in Iraq.
"You have to stay on this every day of the year ahead. You cannot let your guard down," Jacoby said. "Get your head in the game as soon as you get on that airplane."
Jacoby told the troops they were tough, smart, fit and ready to confront the enemy in Iraq.
"Your enemies will regret your arrival on the battlefield," he said.
Gohlke said the planned deployment is for one year but could go longer.
Dawn Jezierski, 33, wife of Sgt. Brian Jezierski, 30, said she felt empty inside knowing that her husband and her friends' husbands were getting ready to deploy.
"It scares me to death," she said. "I will just be praying for him every day."
Brandie Myers, 25, stood next to her with 13-month-old Caydence, dressed in a pink crocheted hat and sweater, tucked into a stroller. When asked to put words to her feelings, Myers burst out crying and couldn't speak.
As tough as it is, the wives said they are 100 percent behind their husbands and the mission in Iraq.
"We wouldn't be married to them if we didn't support it," Norfleet said.
Maj. Max Moore, 35, said he was going to Iraq for the second time. He described his feelings as "excited and proud at the same time."
His four children, three girls and a boy ages 6 months to 4 years, were animated after the ceremony, with one of his girls showing her father how she could tilt her head back and balance a pretzel on her tightly shut eye.
"Ultimately, this is what we train for," Moore said. "Honestly, we are ready."
Cheryl Moore held the couple's 6-month-old son, Max Moore IV, in her arms.
"I know a year is a long time but it will pass quickly," she said.