164th TAOG cases colors, deploys
Spc. Pedro Santiago, 597th Maintenance Detachment, embraces his daughter, Amayah, at the Spiritual Life Center before deploying to Southwest Asia Sept. 21.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 26, 2013) -- It's only been a few short months since Soldiers of the 164th Theater Operations Airfield Group returned from their most recent deployment, but these freedom fighters have once again answered the call of duty without hesitation.

Soldiers, Family members and friends came together at the Spiritual Life Center Sept. 21 to say farewell to more than 35 Soldiers from the 164th TAOG as they deployed to Afghanistan and Kuwait.

"The deploying team (of Soldiers) will be focused acutely on transitions while maintaining the standardization and safety advanced during our last tour of duty," said Col. Michael L. Shenk, commander of the 164th TAOG, during a color casing ceremony Sept. 18.

"We will transition theater Army air traffic services out of Afghanistan, returning both Farah and Tarin Kowt airfields to host-nation control and redeploying the (the unit there) to Louisiana," he continued. "In Kuwait, we will transition Army air traffic services (from an outgoing unit to an incoming one.)"

This deployment comes only six months after some Soldiers from the 164th TAOG returned from their most recent deployment, serving U.S. Army Central Command in Kuwait and Afghanistan where they were responsible for increasing standardization and enhancing safety across more than 10 airfields and heliports where Army Air Traffic Services or Senior Airfield Authority were employed, said Shenk.

Regardless of the amount of times deployed, Staff Sgt. Brandon Parnell, 597th Maintenance Detachment, who deployed for the third time, said it doesn't get any easier.

"This time is the toughest by far because of my daughter, (Arabella)," who is only 13 months old, he said. "This is my third child, but I haven't had to go through the deployment process with my other children. These last few weeks with her, she's definitely noticed there was a change in the household and (we've) just grown that much more attached."

Despite the multiple deployments, Parnell and his Family plan to stay in touch throughout the process, said his wife, Brianna.

"We will use (video chat), talk on the phone and write letters to each other," she said. "I'll send him (care packages) so that he'll have stuff to remind him of home, too."

The Family also found a way for both parents to read to their daughter throughout the deployment, said Brianna, through prerecorded books.

"This way, we can read to her every night," she said.

"For me, it's just the same as the other two (deployments). If my number is called I've got to go," said Brandon. "It takes a lot of reaching down deep and trying to control my emotions so that I (stay strong) for my Family."

This deployment comes during a time when the U.S. is experiencing a reduction in troop strength in Afghanistan, which directly affect the amount of Soldiers that would deploy from Fort Rucker, according to Shenk.

The 1-58th AOB was slated to deploy with the TAOG, but were released from planned deployment two months ago, said the commander.

"2014 will prove to be an important year in our Army and our nation's history," said Shenk. "Our mission in Afghanistan will draw down considerably and our efforts to ensure stability in the greater Southwest Asia region will remain steadfast, and the TAOG is proud to be part of this transition."

Page last updated Thu September 26th, 2013 at 00:00