SALT LAKE CITY -- A group of local soldiers headed to Afghanistan said their final farewell to family and friends Sunday in Salt Lake City.
“We’re just really, really proud of them. We’re gonna miss them, but I know it’s important to do. We couldn’t be more proud,” said Nick Crookston. His son, Thomas Pittman, is headed on his second deployment.
Sunday morning, 30 members of the Utah Army National Guard’s 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion left for a 12 month deployment.
“Everything we are doing is by, with and through the Afghans. So we will be primarily aiding and helping them with whatever they need to do, with wrapping up our mission and helping to enable them to take on their roles,” said Matthew Adamson, non-commission officer in charge.
The soldiers will provide intelligence support to coalition forces involved in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The deployment means leaving their civilian lives behind for an entire year.
“It’s painful. It’s a struggle, but I think it will be good in the end,” said Sgt. First Class Aaron Olson.
Friends, family, and complete strangers gathered in the early morning hours to give the soldiers a proper send off at the Salt Lake Readiness Center. An army band played while families posed for pictures with their soldiers.
“Our troops go through so much throughout their lives, it’s something we can do to show them respect and honor and appreciation for what they go through in their lives,” said Joe Johnson a Patriot Guard Riders caption. “It doesn’t matter if it’s three o’clock in the morning or midnight we’re here.”
Patriot Guard Riders escorted the soldiers from the ceremony to the airport for their final departure. The soldiers were headed to Fort Hood in Texas for further training before traveling overseas.
“I think we’re all ready to go, get the job done,” Adamson said.
Expected deployment time for the soldiers is an estimated 12 months total. However, with the president's recent announcement of a possible full withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of the year, those orders could change.