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Soldiers stand at attention during their unit's deployment ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Ground's Maj. Gen. Warren D. Hodges Armory Feb. 26.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Hundreds gathered inside the Maj. Gen. Warren D. Hodges Armory Feb. 26 to exchange handshakes, hugs, kisses and goodbyes.

Seventy-seven Soldiers, flanked by family and friends, prepared for deployment on a sunny, brisk morning. Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment and detachments of the Maryland Army National Guard will support Operation New Dawn in Iraq for one year.

Maj. Gen. James A. Adkins, adjutant general of Maryland, thanked the Soldiers and their families for their service and sacrifices.

"You've been given an opportunity to be great American Soldiers. You join a long line of patriots who have served this nation and state," he said. "Look out for each other. Take care of each other.

"Now to those who have the toughest job -- family members and loved ones who remain behind. We know it's going to be tough as you take care of a sick baby, fix the car and pay the bills as your loved one serves abroad. You should know that you're part of a larger Guard family. You should never hesitate to call on us for support and assistance."

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said the state is committed to supporting the families of deployed Service members.

"Rest assured, while you're focused on your mission, we're going to focus on your family. We're going to take care of your family," Brown said. "We can't deploy in hazardous environments unless we know that we have the love and support of families and friends."

Brown has served in the Army active and reserve components since 1984. In 2004, he deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, for 10 months. He is currently a colonel in the reserve.

Brown said he understands the Soldiers' emotions from his own experience.

"My role here today is to symbolize the pride that we have in Maryland for each and every one of you," Brown said. "In the last five years in Maryland, we've deployed more men and women to war than any time since World War II. The most important mission is to make sure that you come home safely."

The unit will conduct additional training at Fort Hood, Texas, before traveling to Iraq. Its mission is to conduct air assault and air movement operations to extend the tactical reach of the maneuver commander, negate effects of terrain and seize key ground.

Page last updated Sat February 26th, 2011 at 21:38