Kentucky medical unit headed to Afghanistan

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

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Soldiers of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company stand at attention for the National Anthem during a departure ceremony in Shelbyville, Ky., May 2, 2015. The unit is deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — On a day of tradition in the commonwealth with the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, families and Citizen-Soldiers were reminded of another tradition, Guardsmen answering the call of their nation. Members of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company were honored during a departure ceremony in Shelbyville, May 2. The unit will deploy to Afghanistan later this month.

The mission of the 1163rd will be to conduct ground ambulance support and evacuation of patients from supported areas in the theater of operation, provide preventive dentistry and emergency dental care. The Soldiers will also provide routine administrative and operational support to a hospital and two clinics that are within the area of operation.

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Maj. Ryan Irvine and 1st Sgt. Johnsy Beard case the colors of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company during a departure ceremony for the unit in Shelbyville, Ky., May 2, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“We are trained, we are ready, we are confident, and this unit has more cohesion that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Maj. Ryan Irvine, the unit’s commander. “The 1163rd is standing tall and proud as we take on this mission, and I have to thank our families, leadership of the Kentucky National Guard and Shelbyville for all the support.”

Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, adjutant general for Kentucky was on hand to bid the Soldiers farewell. He spoke of the unit’s long history of providing medical support for operations both home and abroad, including tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and activations for Hurricane Katrina and the ice storm of 2009.

“This is the unit’s third deployment in support of the Global War on Terror, they’ve got a lot of experience and know what they are doing,” he said. “These men and women will do us proud.”

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With more than half of its members having deployed before, there’s experience the unit will rely on while overseas. This will be beneficial for the Soldiers who haven’t deployed such as Sgt. Duncan Wooster. Wooster said the close-knit family-like atmosphere of the unit will make it easier to deal with the time away from home.

“I am nervous of course, headed overseas on my first deployment, but I am ready to do my job, and am very excited to share that experience with the great Soldiers of the 1163rd,” he said.

That family environment also provides a sense of ease for the families left behind. Maj. Irvine’s wife, Carolyn has gone through this before when her husband deployed several years ago. This time he is the commander of the unit and she’s the Family Readiness Group leader.

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Soldiers of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company are honored during a departure ceremony for the unit in Shelbyville, Ky., May 2, 2015. The unit will train in Fort Hood, Texas prior to deploying to Afghanistan. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“I feel this mission is very important for them to leave for, and this unit is very family oriented, so I enjoy that, and it makes it easier on us back home,” she said. “I’m just proud of him and the unit.”

Shelbyville’s mayor, Thomas Hardesty also expressed his admiration and respect for the unit, calling them key members of the local community.

“This nation supports you, the commonwealth supports you and the city of Shelbyville supports you in every way we can. We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers for as long as you’re gone,” said Hardesty.

The 1163rd will travel to Fort Hood, Texas for several weeks of training before deploying in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

 

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