FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- More than 370 Soldiers from the 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion bid farewell to loved ones and deployed for Afghanistan last week, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This is the battalion's first deployment to Afghanistan.

The Soldiers departed in two groups; about 120 left April 1 and about 250 left Saturday. They will replace troops from the 57th Signal Battalion who were deployed to various locations throughout Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. John Custer, commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, spoke to Soldiers during the April 1 departing ceremony; and Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence, commanding general of Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command (Army), addressed Soldiers during Saturday's ceremony. Both commanders offered words of wisdom and gratitude to the departing Soldiers and their loved ones.

"I'm so proud of this great command," Lawrence told the Soldiers, Family members and friends during Saturday's ceremony.

"As I look around ... and look at these young children ... it is why we wear this uniform. It is because we want a better future for them. We want a great future for them. We want a safe future for our young ones."

Lawrence expressed her admiration for the deploying Soldiers by noting, "There is no better-trained organization than the 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion. I know you're ready."

"I've been to Afghanistan a number of times [and] the people there are grateful for you," she told the Soldiers. "They see you as security, and they see you as freedom for them."

"What you do over there is extremely important, as you put in that network," she said, explaining to the crowd that the deploying Soldiers are part of the global network enterprise.

"The chief of staff of the Army's vision is to be able to have a single network that can reach all the way out to the point and be able to reach back to a sanctuary, so we can minimize boots on the ground ... so every Soldier out there can touch the network."

While deployed, the 86th ESB Soldiers will execute a Relief in Place, which consists of occupying equipment, systems and networks already in place. They will also operate and maintain a joint coalition computer, communications, command and control network in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The troops will also provide Internet communications, computer help desk assistance, satellite transmissions, phone lines and cable/phone line/fiber optic installations.
Lawrence told the troops when she speaks to warfighters in Afghanistan, she tells them, "when you have have a squad pinned down on the border of Afghanistan, your most powerful force protection weapon is not your M16; they will run out of ammunition."

"Their most powerful force protection is their network so they can call for fire," she said, noting, "so you may be sitting in Kandahar but know that you are touching every team that's out on patrol, and they're dependant on you. I know you won't let them down."

Turning to the Families and friends of the Soldiers, Lawrence said, "There are many of you in this room that did not sign a contract with America. You signed a different contract with a loved one that said I'll be there to support you in your desires to serve in the military, so, we thank the Family members for your sacrifices."

"I'm so extremely proud of the 86th Signal Battalion; I'm extremely proud of the Family members that are with us today that have committed to this mission ... we thank you."

The commander ended the ceremony by telling the Soldiers, "Godspeed, stay safe and I'll see you over there in Afghanistan," to which the crowd replied, "Hooah!"

Page last updated Thu April 8th, 2010 at 13:43