Colors were cased. Hugs were exchanged. Tears were shed.
Some 70 members of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment of the Washington National Guard furled their guidon and prepared for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan this morning.
They and about 70 soldiers from the Oregon National Guard will fly and maintain CH-47 Chinook helicopters
They’re headed to a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. They’ll stop at Fort Hood, Texas, first for about two months of training.
Their backgrounds are varied. Many are employed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in civilian roles or work fulltime for the Guard. Others will leave behind work as deputies for Pierce and King counties, Boeing and other employers across the Puget Sound region.
“We all be thinking of you as you are out there serving your country,” Gov. Chris Gregoire, told the group as they stood at parade rest inside at hangar at Lewis-McChord. “Know you leave with all of our prayers and gratitude. … Be safe. Make us proud.”
Outside, stood the hulking fuselages of Chinook helicopters like those they will use to ferry supplies and troops around Afghanistan.
“The mission will be difficult. … You will succeed,” Lt. Col. Dave Caporicci told the soldiers.
Following the short ceremony, CW3 Jilliuan Meeker, 32, and her mom, Cheryl Sholseth stood in a sustained hug, tears streaming down their cheeks, each seeming not to want to let go.
But Meeker, a full-time instructor pilot, is eager to put her skills to work in Afghanistan. She’s wanted to fly since she was 6.
“I’m so proud of her for what she’s accomplished,” Sholseth said. Her mother’s tears were “selfish tears,” she said because she will greatly miss her daughter. Then she added, that it’s OK. “She’s doing what she loves.”
Here’s a copy of the news release issued by the Guard on the ceremony:
CAMP MURRAY – The Washington Army National Guard will bid farewell to approximately 70 citizen soldiers from B Company, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment at a departure ceremony on Monday, May 17 at 10:00 am in the Army Aviation Support Facility #1 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
B Company will be serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and will be joined by approximately 70 more citizen soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard. They will deploy to Afghanistan after training for two months at Fort Hood, Texas this summer.