ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) -- More than 2,000 Fort Polk soldiers in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division are headed to Iraq this year in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Soldiers in 3-10 starting the long journey to their destination overseas. (KALB)
Getting troops from point A to B is a long process, but there's another "brigade" that supports deploying soldiers in Alexandria, Louisiana -- armed with snacks!
"'Appreciate your service, guys. Get your beer your right here, ice cold root beer!" says a volunteer filling up cups of soda for soldiers.
The Apple Pie Brigade hands out the popular McDonald's pastry and soft drinks, likely the last American snack soldiers will have before making the long trek overseas.
"Put that in your pocket. You've got a long way to go," said Sara Simmonds, the group's founder.
"Every day, I pray for our military," says Omega Dobard, another Apple Pie Brigade member.
Dobard and her husband joined the team a decade ago. Having grown up with a dad in the Air Force, Dobard feels honored to offer a small comfort to deploying troops.
"My dad was deployed so many times. He wasn't there for my brother's wedding. He missed a lot of life events. In fact, he only got home a few days before my wedding because he was in Vietnam. So I think about them (the soldiers) and I know what their families are going through."
Then, each "patriot" gets a firm handshake from Sgt. Major Alvaro Petruz, 3-10's Operations Sergeant Major.
"It's the last time they actually get to see an American soul before they take off and I think that handshake, that grasp is kind of closure of what they've worked up to."
SGM Petruz says a lot goes through a soldier's mind before deploying. Recalling his own tours overseas, he adds that a handshake is a gesture of encouragement, especially for young soldiers.
"You see confidence, but you also see curiosity in their eyes when they step on the plane and when I shake their hand, I smile. Sometimes I can't help it because I remember the first time I did it. I was very proud, also wondering what's ahead of me, relying heavily on the folks to the left and right of me, the men and women," he said. "When I shake their hand, I'm hoping that when I give them that squeeze, that that's a seal that everything is going to be okay."
The Department of the Army announced 3-10's deployment in July.