• Spc. Gary Echlin, a human resources specialist with the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), his wife Jessica, his daughter Eden, 6, and son Gage, 4, spend some time coloring before his deployment to Afghanistan April 4. Echlin was one of about 50 Soldiers from the 3d ESC who deployed with the advanced party. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rob Strain)

    First 3d ESC Soldiers deploy to Afghanistan

    Spc. Gary Echlin, a human resources specialist with the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), his wife Jessica, his daughter Eden, 6, and son Gage, 4, spend some time coloring before his deployment to Afghanistan April 4. Echlin was one of about 50...

  • Spc. Briana Hawkes, a supply specialist with the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), talks to her daughter Aubrey, 2, April 4 before departing on a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan as a part of the 3d ESC's advanced party. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rob Strain)

    First 3d ESC Soldiers deploy to Afghanistan

    Spc. Briana Hawkes, a supply specialist with the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), talks to her daughter Aubrey, 2, April 4 before departing on a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan as a part of the 3d ESC's advanced party. (U.S. Army photo by...

  • Soldiers with the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)'s advanced party board buses as a part of their departure to Afghanistan April 4. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rob Strain)

    First 3d ESC Soldiers deploy to Afghanistan

    Soldiers with the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)'s advanced party board buses as a part of their departure to Afghanistan April 4. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rob Strain)

FORT KNOX, Ky. (April 4, 2012) -- While much of Fort Knox's interest was focused on the activities on Fort Knox's Brooks Field the morning of April 4, the attention of about 50 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldiers and their Families were tightly focused on one thing -- saying goodbye.

For those Soldiers, the day's big event was not the color casing ceremony about to happen on the parade field nearby; their big event was taking place much further away.

The Soldiers, the 3d ESC's advanced party, departed Fort Knox for Afghanistan just before the unit cased its colors on Brooks Field.

For one Sustainer, the day was one of both confidence and sadness.

"I'm confident about the deployment, but sad to leave my family," said Spc. Gary Echlin, a human resources specialist and St. Louis native.

Echlin had been away on temporary duty for short periods but had not been deployed before.

"I've never had to leave for that long before," Echlin added.

His wife Jessica said the most challenging part would be the uncertainty.

"Being apart, and not knowing when I'll be able to talk to him next," she said.

Echlin plans to keep in touch with his wife and two children using instant messenger and video chat programs to make the deployment easier.

Other Soldiers were more anxious about actually leaving than the deployment itself.

"I'm ready to go," said Spc. Briana Hawkes, a supply specialist also on her first deployment.

"Let's get it over with," she added, explaining that she just wanted to say goodbye and get on with the mission so she can come back home to her daughter.

The remaining 3d ESC Soldiers will deploy later this month for a nine-month deployment.

Page last updated Thu April 5th, 2012 at 00:00