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48th: We are prepared
Battalion receives warm send off at Armory
Sgt. Matt Hersey of the Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and girlfriend Jessica Fahey, left, entertain Thomas Chicola, 3, son of Alpha Company Commander 1st Lt. Dan Chicola, Monday at the Statesboro Armory as the unit readies for training and deployment to Afghanistan. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    As Spc. Malinda Odom held her 15-month-old son Jase, it was clear who she’ll miss most on her upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
    “When I get back, Jase will be 2 years old,” Odom said. “I miss him already.”
    Odom and about 300 members of the 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion attended a send off ceremony Monday at the Statesboro Armory. The Georgia National Guard battalion began rolling out to Fort Stewart after the ceremony for 45 days of training in preparation for its mission to Afghanistan.
    The battalion then begins its 12-month deployment with two months of intensive training at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. The 48th will head to Afghanistan for 10 months some time in June 2009 and is expected to return in April or May 2010.
    In Afghanistan, the guardsmen will be charged with training soldiers in the Afghan National Army.
    “We have trained and worked hard for this mission,” said Lt. Col. Tom Bright, as he addressed the packed gym Monday at the Armory. “We are prepared to go down range and do our duty for our nation.”
    Bright said he has been impressed with the dedication of the battalion since he assumed command in June 2008.
    “You are a strong group,” Bright said. “We recognize that the coming months will be a defining time in the history of Afghanistan. Similar to the successful surge in Iraq, we are increasing our troops and our focus in Afghanistan. The Afghan people and army love their country like we love ours. We are going there to help.”
    Also on hand Monday at the Armory were members of the Family Readiness Group. Representatives offered advice to guardsmen and their families about how to best prepare to handle the logistics of the deployment.
    Capt. Chuck Carter, a Bulloch resident based at Fort Stewart, urged the guardsman to make sure all their paperwork from insurance to mortgages to wills was in order before they left.
    “All of you down range and those back home have enough to concern yourselves with,” Carter said. “Don’t leave without taking care of the important details.”
    There are about 4,000 members of Georgia’s 48th Brigade and about 2,600 are deploying to Iraq, said Col. Steve Joyce. Joyce will be in charge of the Brigade in Georgia during the deployment.
    “The guardsmen are anxious to do their duty,” Joyce said. “We are confident it will be a successful mission and we hope everyone returns safely.”
    Spc. Isaac Johnson, a combat engineer from Columbus, was at the Armory with his sister Taylor, 9, and brother Cameron, 7.
    “We are ready to complete our training and get to Afghanistan,” Johnson said. “The sooner we leave, the sooner we can get back home and to the people we love.”  
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