Family and friends of the Georgia Army National Guard gathered at Hunter Army Airfield for a send-off ceremony Friday as roughly 200 guardsmen geared up for deployment next week.
Soldiers of Company B 169th General Support Aviation Battalion and Company B of the 935th Aviation Support Battalion are preparing for a year-long deployment to the Middle East.
The Savannah-based helicopter units are deploying in support of Operation Spartan Shield, a contingency operation within central command’s area of responsibility, according to Capt. Brandon Long.
Their primary mission will be to build partner capacity in the Middle East to promote regional self-reliance and increase security, he said.
“It is an honor, privilege and awesome responsibility to lead these soldiers,” he said. “The unit has responded to multiple hurricane disaster-relief efforts in the last year. Between Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Maria, you know, those were pretty big training events for us even though they were real-time recovery operations.”
For many of the soldiers like Long, the upcoming deployment will be their first. Some soldiers will begin deploying on Sunday and the remainder will head out in a week.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” he said. “But I’m excited to be heading out and doing the work that we’re going to be doing. . . Leaving the families behind is the toughest part. ”
For the last 22 months, the soldiers have trained and prepared for the deployment, focusing on warrior tasks, air support missions and aircraft maintenance.
“These soldiers are the very best the nation has to offer,” said Col. Dwayne Wilson. “They have worked hard and are prepared for the deployment ahead.”
The two units are expected to return home in the summer of 2019.