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Boro soldiers go to Kuwait

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Soldiers from the 27th Finance Battalion were given a send-off by their families Sunday at a Whitestone American Legion Hall as they prepared to be shipped off to Kuwait, where they will conduct financial support operations for the Iraq war.

The soldiers ate with their families and friends at the American Legion Hall, at 10-20 Clintonville St. in Whitestone, before departing later in the weekend for Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. They will be deployed to Kuwait at the end of the month.

"This is my first time going over, so I'm looking forward to it," said Spc. Jacqueline Guerrero of Woodside, who shared the meal with her husband during the departure ceremony.

The 27th Finance Battalion was created in 1917 in the city as a controlling headquarters for the command, administration and financial operations for city-based units. The division was formed by several National Guard units and served during both World Wars.

In 2002, the unit relocated from Albany to the Whitestone Armory and has supported operations for the Iraq war since 2003. Soldiers from the unit who shipped out last weekend will remain in Kuwait for one year.

"Everybody's psyched — they're motivated," said Maj. George Wilcha, a former Yonkers police lieutenant who lives in Orange County. "The feeling of the soldiers is so positive."

Wilcha said the unit, which has more than 20 members, will make sure soldiers in Iraq are paid properly and work with civilian contractors in the Middle Eastern country. He said the unit underwent nine weeks of training before being deployed and that 30 percent of the soldiers had already served one tour of duty in Iraq or at Guantanamo Bay.

He said a majority of the soldiers in the unit are from Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.

Capt. Bob Olness, who grew up on Long Island but has been staying with siblings in Manhattan, said he has already served one tour of duty in Iraq and feels better prepared for his second tour.

"I'm more calm this time because I know what to expect," he said. "I know how to prepare to do my job better."

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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