NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Hugs were extra-tight and lots of tears fell as 300 U.S. Army soldiers deployed Monday morning for a year.
For Platoon Sgt. William Fisher, this is his fourth deployment. His wife will now hold down the fort for their blended family of seven.
“I deployed in ’97 and I was lucky to get a phone call. Now, I know I’ll be able to talk through social media or Skype. We’ll use something like Facetime or Skype, so those opportunities will present itself, which will make it a little easier,” said Fisher.
Among those deploying is the Virginia National Guard’s Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, and 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The battalion also has units based in Hampton and Hanover.
Gov. Ralph Northam attended the deployment event in Norfolk Monday. The event was part of Northam’s “Thank You, Virginia” Tour in Norfolk. Gov. Northam said there are plans to invest an additional $1 million a year to support tuition assistance for the Virginia National Guard along with plans to change the program to a reimbursement model.
Around 300 soldiers are being deployed to the Middle East from units based in Norfolk, Hampton, and Hanover.
“I am completely excited for this. It’s not like a fearful nervousness, it’s more of an anticipation,” said Army Specialist Darryl Worrell.
The soldiers will deploy on federal active duty to the Central Command area of operations in the Middle East. They’ll provide personnel and site protection using the Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar System, otherwise known as C-RAM. The C-RAM consists of several sub-systems working together to identify, track, engage and destroy incoming rockets, artillery, and mortar threats.
“I will tell you, the soldiers that are here today and their families, they’re excited, they’re honored for the privilege to fulfill the National Guard’s motto of always ready,” said Lt. Col. Donald Bailey.
With a few final waves as their boots hit the bus steps, loved ones are left praying for a safe return.
The soldiers will spend about three months training in Texas and Oklahoma before they will deploy to multiple locations in the Middle East.
Around two weeks ago, more than 1,000 members of the National Guard from Virginian and Kentucky deployed from Bedford to the horn of Africa.
This is part of the largest National Guard deployment since 2007.