Kentucky Guardsmen deploy to the Horn of Africa

Story by Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Photos by Sgt. David Bolton, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

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Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery enter and stand at attention during the farewell ceremony held at the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky., Aug. 31, 2012. Approximately 536 Kentucky Guardsmen will deploy to the Horn of Africa for nine months. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bolton)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky National Guard honored approximately 565 Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery, during a departure ceremony at the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky., Aug. 31, 2012.

Hundreds of Family members and friends gathered with the Kentucky National Guard command staff to provide a fitting farewell as the unit departed for the Horn of Africa for a scheduled nine-month deployment.

To see more photos from the ceremony, click here.

Kentucky’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini and Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes were on hand to greet Family members and speak to the troops, who will be known as Task Force Long Rifle.  Tonini reminded them all of the importance of serving their country and the Commonwealth.

“You are serving in the highest level of Kentucky military tradition,” he said.  “You are living examples of our Unbridled Service.  This mission is about giving comfort, aide and stability to a community of people.”

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Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery stand at ease during rolecall before the farewell ceremony held at the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky., Aug. 31, 2012. Approximately 565 Guardsmen will deploy to the Horn of Africa for nine months to help promote regional security and to protect U.S. and Coalition interests in the region. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bolton)

“This is what we Guardsmen do day in and day out.”

The mission of the 2/138th will be to promote regional security and stability while strengthening local national relationships, as well as to protect U.S. and Coalition interests in East Africa.

This is not the first deployment of Kentucky National Guard troops to Africa.  The Kentucky Air Guard sent aircraft and crews to Somalia and Rwanda in the early 1990s as part of international humanitarian famine relief efforts.  In addition, Kentucky Army Guard units have trained with coalition forces in neighboring Egypt as part of Operation Bright Star.  Individual troops and teams have also deployed to the continent in support of U.S. military operations over the past few years.

Regardless of the location of a deployment, Soldier readiness remains the same, and according to the 2/138th leadership, Task Force Long Rifle is primed to take on this unique mission.

“We’re 110 percent ready,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Gividen, Task Force Long Rifle Command Sergeant Major.  “I am really proud of these Soldiers, they’ve trained really hard. I know we are ready to get there, come back and stand proud for a job well-done.”

The Kentucky National Guard Yellow Ribbon Program has also contributed to prepare the families of the deploying Soldiers.  Yellow Ribbon events and a strong Family Readiness Group have helped remind those left at home that they will not be alone.

“Deployment is never easy,” said Kelley Slaughter, wife of Capt. Mark Slaughter.  “But because of the programs available to families and going to Yellow Ribbon events, our family is prepared, and we have great information and resources.”

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Spc. Perry Lowe with the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 138th Fires Brigade, holds his niece after the farewell ceremony for the 138th’s departure to the Horn of Africa held at the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky., Aug. 31, 2012. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bolton)

“I am so thankful they are here to help,” she said.

The Lexington, Ky.-based 2/138th stands as the most decorated unit in the Kentucky National Guard having completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan during the war on terror.

Tonini said Soldiers of the 2/138th and the National Guard are an essential element in world events.

“Task Force Long Rifle shows the power of a force for good that can only be wielded by a Guardsman,” he said.  “This mission is about building and strengthening partnerships and being responsible world citizens.”

The Soldiers will train at Camp Atterbury, Indiana prior to deploying to Africa.  The unit is expected to return home in the summer of 2013.

 

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