Army National Guard to deploy to Afghanistan

More than 120 honored during ceremony


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Second Lt. Brandon Bowden salutes during a departure ceremony for more than 120 Alaska Army National Guardsmen at JBER on Saturday, Nov. 26.

STAR PHOTO BY MIKE NESPER

More than 120 Alaska Army National Guardsmen said goodbye to family and friends at a departure ceremony held Saturday, Nov. 26 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The soldiers of B Company, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry (Airborne) Regiment are headed to Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Indiana before deploying to Afghanistan for a year. At Camp Atterbury, the soldiers will receive their final pre-mobilization and validation training, according to a press release.

“Going to Camp Atterbury is B Company’s final training before we have boots on (the) ground in Afghanistan,” Cpt. Jason Caldwell said in a statement. “B Company has been motivated throughout their pre-mobilization training, and they’ve accomplished everything they’ve needed to so far. They are working cohesively, which is important for them to be successful, and they’ve accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time.”

In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the soldiers “will provide security forces operations for Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT),” the release said. “The PRT operates in potentially dangerous areas to rebuild infrastructure, assist with agriculture, build wells and provide healthcare.”

B Company has completed every task needed in preparation for deployment, Caldwell said.

“We’ve been training hard, preparing for this deployment, and I’m very proud that my soldiers have stepped up and met every challenge they’ve faced,” he said. “I want them to continue to act in a professional manner and successfully complete their missions in Afghanistan, but my number one priority for this deployment is everyone comes back safe to their families.”

At the ceremony, Sen. Mark Begich shook hands with every soldier.

Throughout the many challenges the soldiers will face, the community will be there for support, Begich said.

“As Alaskans, we will always stand with you,” he said.

Begich said he hopes to visit the troops in Afghanistan in January or February 2012.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski appeared at the ceremony via video message. Murkowski said B Company represents the best of Alaska.

“We are so proud to have you serve as Alaska’s ambassadors,” she said. “You are part of an elite unit.”

The unit is comprised of “the best of the best” of Alaska, Texas and Rhode Island, Murkowski said.

The task at hand in Afghanistan is perhaps the most challenging mission for Alaska Army National Guardsmen in recent years, she said.

“You and your families will be in my prayers each and every day of your mission,” Murkowski said.

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