About 160 members of the Wisconsin National Guard are being deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The members of the 829th Engineer Company, which is a vertical engineering company located in Chippewa Falls with detachments in Richland Center and Ashland, were sent off with a ceremony Friday morning at Fort McCoy.
The unit will deconstruct U.S. forward military bases as part of efforts to reduce U.S. troop presence there. They 829th will also recover, organize and redistribute military materials to save taxpayer money.
This is the unit’s third deployment. The unit supported Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and in 2009.
In a speech at Friday's ceremony, the executive officer said they are the best at what they do because of all of the experience they have.
"This is all we train for," said 1st Sgt. Brian Kelly of the 829th Engineering Company. "I have a wealth of experience inside the military and on their civilian sides. So this is not only their military jobs, I have contractors, plumbers, master electricians in my companies, so they bring those skillsets also to the unit."
For about half of the company, it will be their first time being deployed. The soldiers hope their communities worry less about them and more about the families they're leaving behind.
"It's still a war environment to support those families that do have soldiers overseas, because they could be struck with tragedy just as easily as it was earlier in the war," said 1st Lt. Jessica Burch from Holmen. "And just remember to look out for community members who have people away."
The unit will continue deployment-specific training at Fort Bliss, Texas, before arriving in Afghanistan. The 829th is expected to return from Afghanistan in the spring of 2015.