LONDONDERRY — Soldiers bound for Iraq gripped baby bottles and bibs yesterday, instead of combat gear, and listened with family to Army speakers deliver a briefing in the dining room of the Londonderry Reserve Center.
Lt. Col. Gavin Heater, a commander of the 167th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, said the troops leave for Iraq on Oct. 18, and while they are overseas the Army wants the soldiers and their families to have the answers to worrisome questions like who to call in the case of an emergency and who will cover the family's health insurance.
About 70 people listened to the family briefing, which lasted about four hours and covered services for military families. The briefing was followed by lunch and a family day.
Paul Goodwin of Lawrence, Mass., attended the briefing with his girlfriend and his mother, Shelli Goodwin, of Amesbury, Mass.
"The more information we have, the better," Shelli Goodwin said, though she already knows a lot of the ins and outs because she works at a veterans outreach center. He said he thought the briefing would "put people's minds at ease."
Joe Tweedy of Londonderry thought much of the briefing was directed at married soldiers with children. That information didn't apply to his 20-year-old daughter Courtney, who is single. Tweedy said he and wife Sheryl picked up some information about how to send packages to his daughter overseas, however.
"We're very proud of her," he said, but added that he and his wife were "very much surprised" when she enlisted. The Londonderry High graduate was pursuing a career as an interior designer when she decided to join the military. Tweedy said his daughter volunteered to go with this unit even though she was originally assigned to a different battalion.
Courtney Tweedy, an Army mechanic, said she will work on "wheeled vehicles." Her father did teach her how to tune up her own car and do some car repairs, she said.