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Published: Saturday, 7/29/2006

Local man's honeymoon delayed by duty in Iraq

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

Jamie Ferguson of Toledo said his son was scheduled to be home from Iraq in time for his honeymoon in September.

But because Sgt. David Ferguson is a member of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Wainwright, the trip to Hawaii with his wife, Jen, of one year, will have to wait.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved an extension of tour for some 3,500 members of the Alaska-based Army brigade on Thursday for up to 120 additional days. He has approved such extensions in the past, including several last fall when U.S. forces were increased to deal with violence at the time of the Iraqi election.

The Stryker brigade, which has been serving in northern Iraq for about a year, was scheduled to be leaving now. "The reason they're staying is they did such a good job in Mosul that they've been asked to do stuff to help out," Mr. Ferguson said. "I guess that's the disadvantage of doing your job well."

As many as 5,000 additional U.S. troops with armored vehicles and tanks will be sent into Baghdad under a plan being developed by military commanders to stem escalating violence in the Iraqi capital, defense officials say. The plan by commanders in Iraq, which has not been finalized, could bring the total number of U.S. troops there to 134,000, if all are deployed.

It was unclear whether the Stryker brigade would be among those assigned to Baghdad.

While about 3,500 members of the unit were still in Iraq on Thursday, about 200 had returned to Alaska and some 200 others were in Kuwait awaiting transportation home.

"Some of them came home and were getting back on a plane heading back," Mr. Ferguson said. "I think that's almost worse [than remaining in Iraq]."

His son was scheduled to be back in Alaska yesterday, he said, but did not board a plane before the extension was announced.

While Sergeant Ferguson's plane ticket to Hawaii and honeymoon hotel reservations will have to be canceled, his father said he's still hopeful that he'll see his son during a scheduled vacation for Christmas in December.

At least one other area soldier is among those in the Stryker brigade affected by the change in orders: Spec. Alex Hem, son of Blade newsroom system coordinator Paul Hem.



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