Nearly 200 people huddled in small groups on the bleachers, inside Fort Hood’s Abrams Physical Fitness Center, sharing a few more moments of conversation, an occasional selfie and more than a few hugs at a deployment ceremony for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, III Corps Tuesday afternoon.

But the bleachers couldn’t contain 18-month-old Marissa Verderber, who had an entire basketball court to explore as her dad, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Verderber, an intelligence targeting officer with the Phantom Command, awaited the order to load up and move out on what is his sixth, and possibly final deployment.

“It’s not really hard,” the 20-year Army veteran said. “My wife (Teresa) is from the Temple area. Moving back here was kind of a family choice. She’s got a fantastic support system here, so that makes it a lot easier.”

Verderber, whose older daughter, Brileigh, missed the send off as she attends Academy Elementary School, was one of approximately 120 Phantom Warriors leaving Fort Hood to deploy in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Tuesday’s deployment, the first of two main body flights for III Corps, came just one day prior to the Phantom Corps’ color casing ceremony, marking its official departure from the Great Place.

While the chief may be no stranger to deployments, Tuesday marked the first deployment for  the Allen family – Staff Sgt. Kenneth Allen; his wife of eight years, Daisy; and their 7-year-old daughter Sofia.

“It’s been an emotional time (for me),” Daisy said of the days leading up to her husband’s departure. She said she plans to stay connected with Kenneth throughout the deployment using social media and video teleconferencing applications, but knows the separation will probably be harder on Sofia.

“She feels sad right now,” she said. “It’s the first time Daddy’s leaving for awhile, but with support from her school and support from me and family, we’ll get through this together.”

The deployment ceremony was brief. Following the national anthem and a benediction, Battalion Commander Lt. Col Sean Hubbard reiterated the importance of families staying connected throughout the deployment process.

“You are the reason we do what we do,” Hubbard told the family members. “You are why we come home and why we fight so hard.

“It’s 2019. Don’t let anybody tell you that they can’t connect with you in Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, the Moon – it doesn’t matter. If you’re not hearing from them, make sure you let someone in the chain of command know, so we can get you connected.”

Hubbard then turned the floor over to III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Pat White, who thanked the families for their support and promised to keep his remarks brief to allow the families a few more precious minutes with their Soldiers.

“If you need anything,” White said, “you can get a hold of any one of us 24/7. Coms (communication) lines don’t go down during deployment.” This deployment for members of III Corps Phantom Command is expected to last one year.