A familiar song and a final farewell for more than 150 soldiers from the California Army National Guard's 649th engineering company. The Chico based unit will begin their mission Monday morning, heading first to Fort McCoy Wisconsin for training, and ending up in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. " We've been training basically for a the last year for this mobilization, building our team together, getting everybody ready to go" said Lt. Brandon Trent of the 649th engineering company.
The unit works with NATO in assisting the restoration of Afghanistan. Soldiers will construct new buildings, repair roads and build and expand combat outposts as well as constructing barriers and walls, helping build up security for their fellow soldiers. "Without roads and without defensive measures we don't have a lot of protection over there" Lt. Trent explained.
But before their year long mission in Afghanistan starts, soldiers must first say good-bye to their loved ones. The departure ceremony held Sunday morning at the Chico Elks Lodge helped do just that. "The family members, friends, loved ones that support us back here, we could not do what we do with a clear conscience without their support" explained Sgt. Dale Wrigglesworth of the 649th engineering company.
And with tearful hugs and last minute pictures, speeches of thanks and hope were given. Congressman Wally Herger said "Thank you so much, we're so proud of you and I want you to know that your in our prayers". Chico Mayor Ann Schwab added "By going to Afghanistan, your giving us hope for a brighter future and stronger America". A future that for this soldier, got a little bit brighter after his question was answered with a yes.