FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Families and fellow Soldiers of the 164th Theater Airfield Operation Group bid farewell to 17 unit members who departed for a yearlong deployment in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait April 27 at Cairns Army Airfield.

The 164th TAOG, an expeditionary unit that has been in existence for four years, will provide oversight, technical expertise and standardization for its assigned Airfield Operations Battalion, according to Col. Jon P. Goodsmith, 164th TAOG commander.

While Iraq and Kuwait are not new territory for them, Afghanistan presents a new challenge, he said.

"Our mission is setting up all the air traffic services, mission requirements and units for the entire headquarters," Goodsmith said.

However, according to Goodsmith, this mission will not exactly be like previous ones.

"We're going to be in a different stance," Goodsmith said. "We're going to be establishing a base in Kuwait and then we're going to go into Iraq and start closing down forces there. Then we're going into Afghanistan to assist with the surge."

For most of the Soldiers, it was not their first deployment, but that doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye to Families and friends, according to them.

This deployment marks the second time Sgt. 1st Class Edward Casteel and his wife, Heather, have had to say goodbye for an extended period of time in their 15 years of marriage.

"I'm not sure how we'll handle it yet," Heather said. "It's not going to be easy but we're going to do our best."

Their son, Justin, was just 18 months old the first time his father deployed. Now he's 8 years old and more curious about what's happening.

"He's asking a lot more questions now and it's hard to answer some of them," Heather said. "We both try to talk to him as much as possible and try to help him understand."

Leading up to the deployment ceremony, the Casteels had prepared themselves by spending as much time together as possible.

"We wanted to stay home with each other rather than go somewhere," Edward said.

Staying in contact with Families is another important factor in long deployments. Several deploying Soldiers said they plan to communicate with their Families as much as possible.

"It's vital that we have regular contact with Family," Spc. Jordan Thibodeaux said. "The most important thing I could tell the first-timers is to not let it get to them."

Because this is his fourth deployment, Sgt. John Lawless also understands the stress of being separated from his Family for long periods of time.

"Stress can be a huge factor during this time, and it's really important for us to have patience with everyone and ourselves," he said.

During the farewell, Goodsmith expressed a large amount of confidence in the Soldiers who left Fort Rucker.

"We're absolutely ready to go," Goodsmith said. "We're trained physically, mentally and emotionally, and I think we're exactly where we need to be."

Goodsmith said the unit went through some extra training to make itself more effective and to prepare for the assistance in Afghanistan.

"We broke ourselves down into teams, which have been studying the theater," Goodsmith said. "Most of the (Soldiers) who are going this time are going for the second time. We are the quality assurance side, and it was important for us to do whatever it took to be as efficient as possible."

The commander also expressed his thanks to all the Families and members of the surrounding communities who came out to support the group.

"It's tremendous," Goodsmith said. "We can't say thank you enough to our Families, the civilians, the garrison and the communities in Ozark, Enterprise, Daleville and Fort Rucker."

Page last updated Thu April 29th, 2010 at 09:00