Troops Deploy
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Troops deploy

In the hours before their 15-month separation, Capt. Kevin Agness and his wife, Chiara, share a moment with their baby, Gabriella, in his Ft. Bragg office. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Staff Sgt. Mike McKenzie, right, a platoon leader from Bravo Company, goes through an obstacle course on base as part of regular training. He and his wife, Leah, had “The Talk,” in which he laid out his wishes in the event he dies in Iraq. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Members of the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division take part in a run before their deployment. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Staff Sgt. Mike McKenzie crawls through the mud of an obstacle course at Ft. Bragg. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Brigade members train at Ft. Bragg. As the final two weeks of their yearlong preparation for deployment to Iraq unfolded, no one could escape news of casualties. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Soldiers train at the firing range at Ft. Bragg. Before deployment, they are lectured on the ethics of killing. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
The troops make regular parachute jumps as part of their preparation. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Staff Sgt. Mike McKenzie, center, finalizes details with his unit in the week before its deployment. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
At his office, Capt. Kevin Agness maintained an exhaustive checklist of chores to be completed by every soldier and spouse before deployment. It was 175 items long. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Lt. Col. Mark Stock, left, hosted the battalion’s farewell party. He was responsible for preparing 820 troops for deployment. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Staff Sgt. Mike McKenzie tosses his 2-year-old son, Tom, into the air as his wife looks on. Tom watches for his father’s car through the screen door each night. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Marquze McClusky says goodbye to his 9-month-old daughter, Ma’Khia. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Logan Breyer, 2, looks up at his father on the day of deployment to Iraq. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Soldiers bow their heads in prayer on the day of their deployment. “Their anxieties and fears are highest right now, just before deployment,” a commander said. “They’re seeing the media and hearing the stories about what’s going on over there, and it gets magnified and they hit the ground in a very high state of alert.” (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Staff Sgt. Jason Spraggins hugs his wife, Sherry, on the day of deployment. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Capt. Kevin Agness gives his wife, Chiara, a final kiss as he leaves for his second tour of duty in Iraq. At 30, he is a crusty veteran to other members of his company. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Capt. Kevin Agness waves goodbye to his wife as he boards the bus to the air base. (Carolyn Cole / LAT)
Chiara Agness clings to her baby, Gabriella, after saying goodbye to her husband, Kevin. She believes in confronting the realities of separation, and feels that some wives live in denial. “It’s sad — they just refuse to deal with it till the plane pulls away,” she said. “And then they’re lost.” (Carolyn Cole / LAT)