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Perspectives from a Soldier Preparing for Deployment: Caroline Baker

The 935th Aviation Support Battalion will head to Fort Hood, Texas next week and then on to Iraq in July. On Wednesday, more than 150 people showed their support for the Missouri National Guard soldiers by attending their deployment ceremony in Springfield. KSMU's Missy Shelton was at the ceremony and spoke with a member of the 935th--Private First Class Caroline Baker who is heading to Iraq for the first time.

Baker: I operate the dozer, grader, scraper, front-end loader, 18-wheeler, 5 ton dump truck and everything below. I was the only female in my class in addition to the shortest so I got picked on a lot. But it was really good because those guys stood up for me. They backed me, "She's our heavy equipment operator." So that was neat. From what I've heard we're going to be repairing airfields, building airfields, maintaining roads, convoying equipment, supplies, anything that needs to be taken somewhere or tore up or built, that's what we do. I'm excited, overwhelmed, stressed. It's a lot of different emotions you experience when you're about toe deploy. Those with families, even single soldiers, there's a lot of variables that go into deploying. You just have to take it and do the best you can with it.

Shelton: Private First Class Caroline Baker will leave behind two children-an eight year old and a four year old.

Baker: When we first get over there, there will be very little contact. But then after, once we're established, I anticipate being able to speak to my children almost on a daily basis, depending on my job and missions. There will be times when I'm out for a week or two or a month and I won't have any contact at all. That's when the family support comes in, talking to the children to the help them understand what mommy's fighting for. My eight year old says, "My mom's a soldier. She's fighting for our country." He's very proud. But of course, he's losing his mommy for a while. He's conflicted. M four year old is like, "No mommy, you stay home. I'll go fight the bad guys." It's kind of complicated to explain to my four year old. But he understands that I'm not going to be there. Of course, that's complicated for any child who has a mother going away, when that's the basis of their security and everything they know.

Shelton: Private First Class Caroline Baker says besides missing her family, she'll miss many things about the United States.

Baker: People don't really appreciate what we have and they take it for granted. It's real easy to do that because most everything is just given to us. So I think I'm going to miss our freedom, our culture, the little things, taking my kids to the park and being able to go to church, being able to pray when we want, our food. Being able to have shrimp fettucine alfredo whenever I want. I don't really think Iraq's going to have mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Shelton: Private First Class Baker says food may be one of the last things on her mind...after all, she'll be on duty in a country with its own expectations of how women behave.

Baker: I don't know how they'll react when they see a female my size, my height with an M16 trying to tell them how to control themselves. I don't know what that situation will entail or the result of that situation.

Shelton: She says she's studying the culture of Iraq.

Baker: We don't know our enemy. You have this woman and child walking up to you and you don't know if they're strapped. You have no idea what they're carrying under their clothing. You need to be scared, have a nervousness of them.

Shelton: As for what the public can do to show support for troops...

Baker: The power of prayer is beyond anything we can do as people. And then the letters and moral support from family. People are forgetting. People are forgetting that soldiers are leaving all the time. We're constantly going over and coming home. People are forgetting what we're fighting for. People are losing their patriotic support and I want people to remember what we're fighting for. Remember that every morning you wake up and have your cup of coffee or you get to open the windows and see the sun, that's the freedom we're fighting for.

Shelton: That's Private First Class Caroline Baker. She's a member of the 935th Aviation Support Battalion which is headed to Fort Hood, Texas next week and then on to Iraq in July.