Ready to serve
Jan 25, 2013 (The Hawk Eye - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
For the first time in his life, 20-year-old Burlington resident Matt Trout will travel overseas to defend his country.
His level gaze and easy demeanor betray no sign of fear or regret. But he is anxious. Anxious to utilize the skills he learned from the Iowa Army National Guard. Anxious to prove his merit to his brothers-in-arms.
"All of my friends keep asking me if I'm nervous or scared. I'm not scared at all. Just anxious to get over there (Afghanistan). Very excited and motivated to get over there and do it," he said.
The 833rd Engineer Company (formerly known as Company B, 224th Engineer Battalion) is heading to Afghanistan, and a send-off ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at the Hellyer Student Life Center at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa.
Spec. Trout finished packing up his belongings Wednesday night and Thursday morning and will leave for Ottumwa early this morning to report for duty at 8 a.m. sharp.
After Monday's send-off ceremony, he and about 100 other soldiers from the 833rd will be shipped off to a mobilization station at Fort Bliss, Texas, for several weeks of training. From there, they will be flown to the Central Command theater of operations in Afghanistan for route-clearing missions. Part of the 833rd Engineer Company's mission is to remove physical obstacles while identifying and reducing mine fields and explosive devices.
The company is expected to be deployed for one year.
"We're going to be doing lots of running and getting physicals (in Fort Bliss)," Trout said. "When we get over there (Afghanistan), we'll be physically and mentally ready."
Though the majority of soldiers in the company are from the Ottumwa area, a handful are from the surrounding Burlington area.
While Trout is the only Burlingtonian being shipped off, there are a few soldiers from Mount Pleasant, one from Keokuk, one from Montrose, one from Keokuk, one from West Point and one from Salem. Trout used to be part of the 832nd Engineer Company out of Mount Pleasant and transferred to the 833rd with a few of the other soldiers from Mount Pleasant.
They will be there to watch his back after arriving in Afghanistan.
"That's the nice thing about the National Guard. You get to go over there with people you know," Trout said.
Trout graduated from Burlington High School in 2010 and started attending classes at Southeastern Community College later that year. Though he still attends classes at the college, Trout soon found it wasn't enough. He wanted to do something bigger with his life. That's when a friend of his that serves in the Iowa Army National Guard suggested Trout talk to a recruiter.
It didn't take much convincing. Matt Trout's father, Gene Trout, served in the U.S. Navy aboard two ships during the Vietnam War. One of Matt's sisters, Olivia Watkins, served in the U.S. Air Force for four years, and his uncle also served in the Air Force.
"I've always felt like serving. My dad served in the military, and I grew up listening to his stories. In the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to serve," he said.
Trout was shipped off to boot camp in the summer of 2011 and decided to volunteer to be sent to Afghanistan shortly after that.
"They asked pretty early on when I got back from basic who wanted to go," Trout said. "You look up to the guys who have been deployed. They have the experience of it all. I just want to say that I served my country, that I fought in a war, that I helped contribute."
Trout, who was born in the Burlington Medical Center, came back from basic training a changed man -- full of confidence that grew from surviving the mental stresses of boot camp. He can do push-ups and sit-ups all day, but it was the lack of sleep that truly tested his resolve. Doing homework for his college courses seemed like a cakewalk after boot camp.
"It's good. It develops character," he said.
Trout has a lot of people back home who will miss him, including friends, family and his girlfriend, Kourtney Adams. She graduated from Burlington High School the same year he did, but they didn't start dating until school was over. Adams has been living in Columbia, Mo., while attending school at the University of Missouri, so it's been a long-distance relationship.
"It's about to get a lot longer," Trout said with a smile.
Trout occasionally will have the chance to talk to his family through emails and the online Skype service, and when he returns home, he'll continue to pursue a degree in criminal justice. But he'll need a couple of weeks to relax first -- time filled with fishing, hunting and enjoying the outdoors.
"The hardest part (of serving) will be leaving my family," he said.
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