Kentucky Guardsmen headed to Cuba

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Soldiers of the 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment stand in formation during a departure ceremony for the unit at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., May 1, 2013. The Soldiers will deploy to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for a scheduled nine-month deployment. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Friends, family and members of the Kentucky National Guard command staff gathered in Frankfort, Ky., to honor the Soldiers of the 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment as they prepare to deploy to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, May 1, 2013.  The unit is mobilizing in support of Joint Task Force Guantanamo and is scheduled to be away from home for nine months.

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The 133rd is comprised of Soldiers trained as broadcast and print journalists. They will team up with the Indiana National Guard’s 120th PAD for this mission, which will include providing public affairs and media relations support to military operations at United States Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  They will work to provide transparency of the care and custody of detainees and to facilitate media access to the military commissions held at the base.

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Kentucky’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini speaks with Pfc. Sarah Anderson and her family during a departure ceremony for the 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in Frankfort, Ky., May 1, 2013. Anderson and the unit will work with Joint Task Force Guantanamo in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba facilitating media operations at the base. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“This is quite a unique mission, “said Capt. Andrea Hahn, commander of the 133rd. “This deployment we are about to set out on is different from what most of us our used to. It’s not Iraq, it’s not Afghanistan, it’s not even the more recent Africa that our state is familiar with.”

“The Kentucky Guard hasn’t been to Guantanamo since 2002,” said Hahn. “We have well qualified, award-winning Soldiers in this unit, so I have no doubt we will operate to the best of our abilities.”

Established in 1960, the 133rd has a long history of overseas and domestic deployments.  The 133rd deployed in 1990 in support of the Persian Gulf War
and in 2005 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom where it produced stories, photos and video on both war fronts.  It also deployed to Bosnia and
throughout Europe and Central and South America over the years

The 133rd’s military journalists have also supported flood and tornado recovery efforts across the state for the past two decades, telling the story of Kentucky’s citizen soldiers and their service to the Commonwealth.

While the unit has a long history, several of its current members are not only preparing for their first deployment, they are also brand new to the military.  Pfc. Cody Cooper is 19 years old and has only been with the unit for less than two months. He graduated from Advanced Individual Training in March and is now deploying overseas.

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Capt. Andrea Hahn gets a hug from her mother Robin during a departure ceremony for the 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in Frankfort, Ky., May 1, 2013. Hahn’s family came all the way from Montana to see their daughter off. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“It’s difficult being away from my family but at the same time, it is comforting to know that the guy next to me is going through the same thing,” said Cooper.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work overseas and be a part of this,” he said. “I am nervous to go from training straight to a deployment, but am confident I will learn from the experience in this unit.”

Kentucky’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini was on hand to say farewell also. He called the unit a group of very professional Soldiers.

“This is indeed an historical mission for the 133rd,” said Tonini. “There is no one I would feel more comfortable with doing this mission than these Soldiers.”

The Soldiers from Kentucky and Indiana are expected to return home February 2014.

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