Kentucky National Guard largest mobilization since WW II

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Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Michael Oliver, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Kentucky Guardsmen of the 149th Manuever Enhancement Brigade stand at attention during the playing of the National Anthem at their departure ceremony in Freedom Hall Louisville, Ky., June 4.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In the largest deployment of Kentucky National Guard troops since World War II, Soldiers of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade said goodbye to employers, friends and Family during a departure ceremony held at Freedom Hall in Louisville June 4.

More than 1,300 Soldiers deployed in support of Operation New Dawn, the official end to combat operations by United States forces in Iraq.

 “These men and women are going to ensure that the sun continues to rise during this New Dawn,” said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, state adjutant general.

Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, state adjutant general, speaks at the 149th Manuever Enhancement Brigade departure ceremony in Freedom Hall Louisville, Ky., June 4.

While in Iraq, the Kentucky National Guardsmen will work alongside troops from Oregon, Utah and Virginia and conduct security force, base defense operations and convoy security operations in support of United States Forces-Iraq’s mission to provide stability as Iraqi Security Forces build a foundation capability to defend against external threats.

With all four states combined, the total strength of the brigade will exceed 2,600.

Kentucky Guardsman Spc. Jason McColly, Headquarters Headquarter Company 149th Manuever Enhancement Brigade, takes time to take a photo with his wife Stephanie and kids, Zachery and Hailee, at the departure ceremony in Freedom Hall Louisville, Ky., June 4.

“I didn’t realize how big and huge our deployment is until after watching all of us file into Freedom Hall,” said Spc. Jason McColly, Headquarters Headquarter Company 149th Brigade. “I can take God with me but I can’t take my family. I’m going to miss them a lot.”

The Governor spoke about the historical aspects and the importance of the brigade’s mission.

“As governor and commander in chief of the guard, I am intensely proud of these men and women and fully confident that they will perform at the highest level on their latest deployment,” said Governor Steve Beshear. “Every Kentuckian should join me in praying for their safe return.”

Friends and family members of the 149th Manuever Enhancement Brigade, cheer on their deploying Soldiers at the departure ceremony in Freedom Hall Louisville, Ky., June 4.

“We will leave Iraq with dignity, honor and our heads held high with the satisfaction of knowing we have contributed significantly to our nation’s defense and helped free a nation,” said Col. Scott Campbell, 149th MEB commander.

The 149th MEB trained for more than a year for this deployment. The brigade will conduct additional training at Camp Atterbury, Ind., prior to departing for Iraq.

Since Sept. 11, nearly 14,000 Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and Airmen mobilized in support of the Global War on Terror. The Kentucky National Guard currently has more than 1,500 troops deployed worldwide, including the 149th MEB.

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