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Arizona National Guard unit deploys to Afghanistan
Even as President Barack Obama and military officials plan for the end of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, tens of thousands of American servicemen and women are being deployed to that war zone.
One hundred Arizona National Guardsmen will be the latest to head overseas. They said farewell to friends and family on Sunday in Phoenix.
In a hangar filled with parents, spouses, family members and friends, the 819th Engineer Company of the Arizona Army National Guard stood at attention as prayers were offered and flags presented.
This is the first deployment for specialist Richard Rainsley. He says, he’s spoken to other guardsmen who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan. He believes the training and hard work his unit has gone through has prepared them.
"I tell my wife, that I’ve been with this company for years, almost from the beginning of it, it’s almost like the Olympics, you train, you train, and you never get to go," Rainsley said. "We’re finally going, and I think that’s how a lot of these guys look at it. You train for something, now it’s time to do it."
As combat engineers, the 819th will be checking roads for hidden explosives and booby traps along with other duties. Rainsley says even as tough as that job may be, he’s thinking about his wife.
"She’s got a harder job than I do," he said. "Four kids at home, an 11-year-old being the youngest, she's got … I got it easy."
Marlene Troxel stood at the edge of National Guard hangar Sunday morning. Her son, Justin Bayles, stood in formation with the 819th Engineer Company. The first time her 24-year old son was deployed, he was sent to Iraq.
"This time it’s different, this time its different because he’s older, he’s married, he’s expecting a child, and he’s going to Afghanistan," Troxel said.
With daughter-in-law Christina Bayles at her side, Troxel fought back tears and held hands with other family members.
"And I have to be strong for him when he can’t be," Troxel said. "That’s how I looked at it when he went to Iraq, and that’s how I’m looking at it now, and he’ll be home in a year or so."
The unit is scheduled to return home in one year. Until then, Troxell has message for the 819th.
"I love you son, come home safe. All of you, come home safe," she said."