IL National Guard 661st firefighting team deploys for Iraq

IL National Guard 661st firefighting team deploys for Iraq
(Source: Rob Foote, KFVS)
(Source: Rob Foote, KFVS)

SPARTA, IL (KFVS) - Family, friends and veterans gathered on Wednesday, October 18 to send off the Illinois National Guard's 661st Engineering Detachment Firefighting Team as they prepare to head to Iraq for nine months.

The commander of the team of six is Staff Sergeant James Cissell. He said he's confident that his small team can get the job done.

"Basically we'll be doing base firefighting operations so it'll be aircraft and structure," Cissell said. "Basically what your normal fire department would be doing."

This is Cissell's second deployment. He said getting ready to leave is hard for the families of soldiers.

"The hardest part is actually preparing them for you leaving them and being gone. I don't think there's a good way to do that," Cissell said.

Family members of his said watching him leave for a second time is no easier than the first.

"I think it gets harder actually. The kids were smaller the last time, and now they're older so now they realize nine months isn't two weeks," said sister-in-law Nikki Pelate.

"Hate to see him leave. You never know what's going to happen over there," said his father, James Cissell Sr.

Cissell said he has a young team but they work together like they've been at it for years.

The soldiers in the unit being deployed are:

  • SSG James Cissell from Evansville, IL
  • SGT Scott Wendt from Effingham, IL
  • SPC Dakota Hartley from Bloomington, IL
  • SPC Mathew Holdman from Steeleville, IL
  • SPC Jared McClintock from Quincy, IL
  • SPC Austin Kramberg from Quincy, IL

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