Caring For Clients And Country
As the new year began, many people made resolutions for change in their lives, but few of those resolutions required near the resolve or change that military personnel and their families experience when they are called to duty.
|Alfa Agent Brent Lusk, center, says goodbye to his family before leaving for military service in Iraq. Lusk is shown here with wife Susan, sons, Ben and B.J., and granddaughter Christina.|
With hundreds of thousands of U.S. military men and women deployed around the world, an Alfa Insurance agent has joined 146,000 soldiers now serving in Iraq, and another agent and Gulf War veteran possibly is going later this year.
Agent Brent Lusk of Guntersville, Ala., went to northern Iraq the first of this year to serve with the Army National Guard's 279th Signal Battalion B Company as Sgt. Brent Lusk. After 21 years in the Guard, Lusk received word of his first wartime deployment just before Thanksgiving.
Lusk left behind his wife Susan, his two sons Ben, 28, and B.J., 26, as well as his 3-year-old granddaughter Christina. Lusk said he hopes Christina will understand why he left and will not forget him.
"Leaving my family in a situation like this is always hard on the family, and their way of life changes," Lusk said. "I miss them, but we've just had so much training, day and night, I haven't had much time to worry about them, but I know I will."
Lusk was at an Army post in North Carolina for training during November and December and was able to come home for Christmas before going to more training at Fort Polk in Louisiana and being sent to Iraq.
Lusk and his unit are a mobile subscriber company able to provide communications for soldiers. Their trucks are self-contained communications systems that supply telephone service and serve as a network for soldier communications.
"We can provide anything Ma Bell can," Lusk said. "We support the infantry units and when they move, we move, so we use generators for power allowing us to be mobile."
At home, Susan is proud of her husband, and although she always knew his deployment was a possibility, she still can't wait for his return. The couple will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary apart during his deployment.
"I always knew it was possible for him to be deployed, but I never expected it," Susan said. "But I knew if the opportunity came up he'd go, that's just how he is. He's very patriotic and feels strongly about his country, I'm just very proud of him."
Lusk's unit is a mixture of many people from many backgrounds. There is an electronic engineer from a nuclear plant, police officers, teachers and former Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine members. Lusk said the morale of his unit was high prior to deployment, and the soldiers were eager to do their jobs.
"Spirits are real high here," Lusk said during an interview from one of his training posts. "The mindset is to get ready and go, and our company wants to do our job so that the people at home can enjoy all that they have--we have a commitment to our country."
While Lusk spends the next 12 months in Iraq, Agent Steve Tamburo will help Lusk's policyholders with any questions about their policies. Before his deployment, Lusk told as many of his policyholders as he could about his deployment and that their business would be secure while he was gone.
"I appreciate everything Steve will do for me while I'm gone," Lusk said. "He really should be given a medal for taking on the workload, and I'm very lucky to have him in my office and to work with."
While Lusk prepares to go into new territory, Agent Sam Stallings may be going back into a familiar one. The former Operation Desert Storm veteran may be called to serve in Kuwait this year as part of the Bessemer, Ala. Army National Guard unit.
In 1976, Stallings began serving in the Marines and later joined the National Guard in 1988. In 1990, he and his unit spent a year in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq for Desert Storm.
"It was scary; it was actually my first time in a war," Stallings said. "We received care packages from two schools, and that helped out so much and meant a lot to all of us serving there."
Stallings serves in logistics and supports troops with supplies and serves as a chaplain's assistant. He has been deployed to San Antonio, Texas and participates in task-force missions every two to three weeks.
Stallings said his wife Teresa and their five children, ranging in age from 23 to 8 years old, understand his call of duty, but his youngest daughter still has a hard time with his leaving.
"They understand I have to go," Stallings said. "My oldest boys understand what I need to do, but my daughter isn't used to it yet. I'm trying to explain it to her and get her used to me not always being there."
In October 2001, Stallings had the opportunity to leave the Guard, but after the Sept.11 attacks, he decided to extend his service until October 2005. Lusk also had such an opportunity to leave, but decided to stay in the Guard.
"My family thought I was crazy for signing back up, but I knew it was something I had to do," Stallings said.
Both Stallings and Lusk are confident in their training and feel they have the appropriate knowledge to get the job done.
"They prepare us for everything," Lusk said. "We train for night vision, vehicle driving and combat situations. It's good training, and we're ready for the challenge. We've got a job to do, and we're ready to go do it."
Tiffany Trueblood is a marketing communications specialist with Alfa Insurance Co.