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NEWS | Feb. 12, 2020

Middle East deployment is family affair for NY Guard Soldiers

By Sgt. Andrew Winchell 42nd Infantry Division

FORT HOOD, Texas – Deploying with the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division is a family thing for three members of the Valenza family from Queensbury, N.Y.

Maj. Julie Valenza, her husband, Sgt. 1st Class William Valenza, and their youngest son, Sgt. Andrew Valenza, are all conducting mobilization training at Fort Hood with the other 600 members of the division headquarters to prepare for a deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield.

The 42nd Infantry Division, nicknamed the "Rainbow" Division since it was formed from a collection of state National Guard units in World War I, is to assume command of the almost 10,000 Army land forces in the region as part of a Department of Defense mission to deter aggression.

Lt. Col. Mark Frank, the deputy personnel officer for the New York Army National Guard, said that seeing this many family members deploy on one mission is rare.

He's seen husbands and wives deploy together, or siblings serving, but to have this many family members heading downrange at once is unusual, Frank said.

For the Valenzas, military service is truly a family affair. Their oldest son, Mitchell, a graduate of West Point, is deployed to Afghanistan, and their daughter, Camille, recently commissioned as an artillery second lieutenant in the New York Army National Guard. Camille is staying home minding the store while the rest of the family is away.

"Selfless service and dedicated service is something we all value and share," said Andrew, the youngest of the squad.

Julie, also known as mom, works as a physician's assistant (PA) in the division's surgeon section. She joined the New York Army National Guard in 2010 and works at a medical practice in Latham, N.Y.

When she puts her uniform on she does the same thing for the division's Soldiers.

"I assist with the management of medical issues for our troops," Julie said. "It is both an honor and a pleasure to be deploying with my husband and son."

As a medical provider, she will only be away from home for six months. Her husband and son will be deployed for the entire 11-month tour.

After a 15-year break in service, William, a civil affairs noncommissioned officer, re-enlisted in the National Guard in 2009. He had served in the National Guard for six years but left to pursue a civilian career in emergency services and law enforcement.

When he re-enlisted, he was serving as a captain in the Glens Falls, N.Y., police department. He retired as chief of the department in 2014. He said he's looking forward to the overseas deployment.

"Working in the civil affairs section is very rewarding," William said. "In a way, they are the face of the Army. The civil affairs section is a direct link between the host nation and the Army working closely with the Department of State, relief organizations, and both government and non-government organizations."

For the past year, the family has been preparing to deploy knowing that they will most likely be in several different countries.

"I am very fortunate to be deploying with my family," William said. "Other Soldiers are not as lucky and have to leave their families behind."

"I would have to say that it is less difficult in some respects than going on my own," added Julie, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

"When I left before on my last deployment to the Middle East, Will was home with three teenagers having to do everything for them, all while dealing with his own emotions of us being apart," she said.

Andrew, a public affairs NCO with the 42nd, just turned 21 and completed his bachelor's degree early to volunteer for the deployment.

"This is definitely exciting, deploying with my family," he said. "This is a great opportunity to grow, not only as a Soldier but also as a leader."

"Chances like this are very rare," Andrew said. "I know the next year will be tough, but it will make it easier being able to see my family throughout the deployment."



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