As members of the Nevada Army National Guard prepared to deploy, the room at the Las Vegas Readiness Center quickly filled up Tuesday with loved ones, including kids sporting camouflage and a 7-month-old with a white headband and frilly socks giving her mom a kiss.
Sgt. Jessica Done held baby Riley before she and 26 other National Guardsmen deploy Wednesday morning on a 10-month mission in Afghanistan.
“I’ve done this before, and I’m excited to go for the Army,” she said with tears in her eyes. “It’s different now because I have her. At least she’s young enough to not remember that I’m gone.”
Sgt. Done’s husband, Noble, also a guardsman, will care for baby Rylie with the help of family until Mom returns in June.
Done took her place in line before saluting for the national anthem as part of the mobilization ceremony. Done, the only woman in the unit, is part of a mission to support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in the Kandahar Province.
The unit’s focus, Maj. Aaron Mach said, is to disarm explosive devices and to support the Afghan army. Mach said his unit has ramped up its training over the past year, including using live explosives, night operations and unmanned aerial systems.
“Never have I seen a group of individuals with such resolve and tenacity and accomplishment to their mission,” Mach told his unit in front of friends and family, and guest U.S. Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev.
It will be the first deployment for the 3665th Explosive Ordinance and the first combat employment in three years for the Nevada National Guard, which will send four additional units this year for missions in Asia, Europe and Africa.
About one-third of those deploying Wednesday are from states outside Nevada.
“The journey has yet to begin,” Mach said. “We must never forget no matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets and no matter how far you fall … We are a family, not just a unit.”
Brig. Gen. William Burks, the adjutant general, told the unit there was none finer to host for his last mobilization ceremony before he retires next month.
“You guys are going to have your mettle tested overseas; there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “Make sure you have a battle buddy that you can rely on in times of need, because they will happen.”
Then, he addressed the room full of families, including a 9-year-old Maltipoo named Addie who would surely be cuddling up to Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Hopper’s blanket while he was away. Hopper’s wife, Lauren, plans to send care packages to make sure she’s a part of his life from afar.
“I salute you,” Burks told them. “… Without the family members here today, the Guard could not exist.
“It’s not easy to say goodbye to your loved ones, but you can be rest assured, with their training, they’ll all be coming back.”
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