January 16th, 2007 13:52 EST
30 Illinois Guardsmen reenlist during ceremony
LSA ANACONDA, Iraq "The 30 Soldiers who stood in the middle of the motor pool had more in common than just being deployed to Iraq.
The Soldiers, members of the 1744th Transportation Company, an Illinois National Guard unit, participated in a reenlistment ceremony held Jan. 6 here.
Every Soldier that is reenlisting today is from the state of Illinois, " said 1st Sgt. Royal Schaefer. These men and women have made their families and the nation proud by choosing to continue to serve their country. "
Brig. Gen. Michael J. Terry, commanding general of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), led the ceremony. He said he was proud of the 1744th as he handed each Soldier their certificate.
I feel humbled as I stand among all of you today, " he said. You have chosen to continue your service to the Army during a time of war, and that is very admirable. "
Terry said servicemembers choose to reenlist for many different reasons but there must be something deep in a person`s spirit that makes them want to stay in the military.
America needs to understand who you are; you have made a greater sacrifice than some people can imagine. "
Soldiers agreed with the commanding general`s statement and said they felt there was more to their reenlistment than just a bonus.
We need to keep the knowledge in the Army, " said Sgt. David Hill, armored support vehicle driver. Experienced Soldiers are needed to teach the newest generations of Soldiers as they begin their career in the military. "
Hill, who has been in the Army for more than nine years, said he reenlisted so he could deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Some Soldiers said they had already made the decision to reenlist because they wanted to finish their career in the military.
I have over 16 years invested in the Army, " said Staff Sgt. Michael Bickham, supply noncommissioned officer for the unit. I enjoy the camaraderie with the Soldiers, and I felt we need to develop the younger Soldiers to take our place. "
Spc. Jimmie Wong-Soto, a driver for the unit convoy commander, has been in the Army for nine years. He said his family accepted and supported his decision to continue his career in the military.
I think is important that we keep the Army strong with the experience of older Soldiers and the motivation of younger ones, " Wong-Soto said.
In planning the event, the unit made a special request for the commanding general to present the certificates.
We knew General Terry was a busy man, " Schaefer said, adding that it was a great honor to have him take part in the ceremony.
The large number of Soldiers reenlisting at the same time was not a coincidence; they began their reenlistment paperwork prior to deploying to Iraq.
We filled out their paperwork while at our mobilization station, and we waited until we arrived in country to initiate their paperwork in Illinois, " Schaefer said. We did this so Soldiers didn`t have to go through the process here, and they could keep their mind on the mission. "
Schaefer said the Soldiers were also able to take advantage of the tax exemption while deployed.
The sum of everyone`s bonus here totals close to half a million dollars, " he said.
As the ceremony ended, each Soldier was thanked again by their senior leadership as they walked back to their building.
As a first sergeant, it feels great to have your Soldiers reenlist, " Schaefer said. This is a great benefit to the Illinois National Guard. "
Schaefer said no matter what reason each Soldier chose to reenlist, it was beneficial for both the servicemembers and the military.
Some Soldiers may have reenlisted for the money, " he said. But the Illinois National Guard gets 30 good Soldiers. "
By Sgt. Kevin McSwain
Multi-National Corps " Iraq
Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory
APO AE 09342