Local Guardsmen Preparing For Iraq Tour

SPOKANE — More than 3,000 Washington Army National Guardsmen are getting ready to say goodbye to their families Monday night and head to Iraq.

Within the next couple of days the Guardsmen, members of the 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, leave for training at Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin and then they deploy overseas to Iraq.

In all about 270 National Guardsmen from the 81st Brigade are from the Spokane area and one of them is Captain Clayton Colliton, who is returning to Iraq less than four years after serving his first combat tour there.

Roughly 60 percent of the 81st Brigade are combat veterans like Colliton who have served one or more tours in Iraq. For Colliton he says it’s both fulfilling and he’s going because somebody has to do it.

Military service is a Colliton family tradition. His brothers, father, uncles, grandfather and great grandfather all served our country.

“It’s something I can’t explain, some people want to be doctors, some people want to in television, some people want to be in the military,” Clayton’s dad Jeff Colliton said.

“All cliche’s out there, but when the rubber meets the road somebody needs to be there and make sure it happens,” Clayton Colliton said. “Something in me makes me do it.”

Clayton Colliton leaves his wife and three children Wednesday and he says “they’re behind me 100 percent.”

They might be out of sight, but they’re never out of mind. He’ll keep their pictures tucked away in his hat and pockets.

“Separation from family, that’s the hardest part. Its a lot easier for soldiers to pack the bags and leave than it is for the families who have to stay behind and watch them leave,” Colliton said.

Also watching Colliton leave will be his dad Jeff, a former Army officer himself. Jeff says he’s extremely proud of his son and can relate with everything Clayton has been through and will go through and knows there are two guiding principles his son will live and serve by while in-country.

“Take care of yourself, take care of your troops,” Jeff Colliton said.