Preparing to deploy
By: Lisa Call, The Dickinson Press
While two Dickinson natives with very differing military experience mentally prep for deployment, their outlook on the mission is quite similar, bursting with positive vibes. And their families are in on the positive attitudes, too.
North Dakota is gearing up to send about 700 soldiers to Kosovo for a 12-month tour, the largest North Dakota deployment since the Korean conflict.
While Dickinson’s National Guard unit, the 816th Engineer Company (Horizontal) is exempt from the Kosovo deployment, nine soldiers with Dickinson addresses are heading to Kosovo to take part in Task Force Falcon, the American-led facet of NATO’s Kosovo Force 12 mission.
Cripe capstones his career
Having entered the Army age 17, Dickinson resident Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Cripe’s 31 years in the military have provided priceless life experiences for not only himself, but his family. And he is slated to capstone his career with the mission in Kosovo.
Cripe’s deployments and missions have taken he and his family around the world, including Oklahoma, Germany, Panama, Korea and Honduras.
The main goal of the mission is to maintain and promote peace between the two ethnic groups inhabiting Kosovo, the Serbians and the Albanians, Cripe said.
“Our mission is to provide a safe and secure environment for both ethnic backgrounds and to allow them freedom of movement amongst the country,” Cripe said.
Cripe’s family has been supportive of his career choice since the beginning.
“He is definitely a soldier’s soldier,” said Cripe’s wife Vaune. “He left for Germany on a three-year assignment two weeks after we got married, so our life has been military.”
Jack definitely understands the challenges a military spouse can face.
“The soldiers will tell you up front, the spouses staying behind have the worst job,” Cripe said.
Vaune feels Jack’s deployment to Kosovo is the perfect capstone for his career as he is set to retire in August 2011.
“Above anything else, he loves working with younger soldiers so this is just right up his alley,” Vaune said.
The Cripe’s two children, Haylee of Grand Forks and BJ of Bismarck, agree that even though they are adults with the military comprising a large part of their childhood, the departures do not get any easier.
“Every time he’s been gone, we’ve always been at a different stage in life so it seems like there is always something big going on that he isn’t around for,” BJ said. “It’s not easier to see him go, but each time you know what’s coming, you know you’ll get through it,” BJ said.
Jack’s departures and at times, absence, has not been in vain.
“I think the biggest thing my brother and I have learned is just a commitment and a sense of loyalty to the people that have helped you,” Haylee said.
“Our family support network in this state probably leads the nation,” Jack said, adding they were among the first to develop family assistance centers. Centers provide services such as snow removal, lawn moving and chores that may be too much for a spouse left behind.
The Cripe family has no qualms about the communication process while he is gone.
“The technology today has really closed the loop on the physical separation,” Cripe said.
Haylee said her family attempted to convince Jack to purchase a laptop to keep up with today’s fast-moving technology with out success.
“There is always that separation, but the key is communication,” Jack said. “They just have to dwell on the positive things that are happening on the home front.”
Jack attributes tremendous community support, from families to employers, to the success of the North Dakota National Guard.
Vaune said she feels Gov. John Hoeven’s deep concern for the health, moral and well-being of not only the soldiers, but their families, has also strengthened North Dakota’s National Guard.
“The families always seem to understand that there’s a reason why things happen and why we’re going over there and not doing it here,” Jack said.
In this military family, compromise and patience have become a key ingredient to maintaining a healthy family-flow.
Vaune said her daughter-in-law is expecting and in order for Jack to see his grandson prior to his deployment, her daughter-in-law is scheduled to be induced Monday.
Cripe said although it takes time for soldier’s to assimilate back into civilian life, all the work, devotion and sacrifice is worth it.
“It’s kind of like driving race cars or motorcycles, it gets in your blood and it’s just something that stays with you and you just do it,” Jack said.
A Kosovo Force 12 send-off ceremony will be held at Aug. 14 at 10 a.m. at the Fargo Civic Center.
This is part one of a two-part series on local guardsmen deploying to Kosovo. See Friday’s paper for part two.