BILLINGS — More than 100 of Montana's citizen soldiers are saying their goodbyes as they prepare to deploy Friday. They are members of the 1-163rd Alpha Company of the Montana National Guard.
"Alpha company, keep up the hard work. Stay positive. And help your battle buddy when they are down. You and your families will always be in my thoughts and prayers," Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Tomas Maes told the soldiers during Thursday’s deployment ceremony in Billings.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte was among those on hand for the deployment ceremony. "On behalf of a grateful state and nation to all of the soldiers standing here thank you for stepping up and serving," said Gianforte.
It’s a mission they have been preparing for a long time. They’ll first head to Texas for more preps and then overseas to west Asia—most likely Kuwait. For many of the soldiers, it will be their first time deployed.
"A little nervous, but I think that is a good thing. I'm really happy to be here,” said Specialist Ryan Znamierowsk from Salt Lake City. “I'm really proud of the unit and what we have accomplished so far, and I think it's going to be a great deployment."
It’s not only a sacrifice made by those in uniform, but also their families.
"My little brother here his birthday is 11 days after I leave, so that's hard. I'm going to miss them all for sure,” said Dominic Pullin of Rocky Boy. It’s Pullin’s first deployment and his younger brother couldn’t hold back the tears.
It was a common scene as the soldiers said their goodbyes and prepared for the yearlong deployment a long way from Montana.