READING, Pa. -- Hundreds of Berks County residents, along with local government and military officials, were out in full force to honor Warrior Citizens heading to Afghanistan in two send-off ceremonies held here Apr. 14 and 16.

State Sen. Judy Schwank, a familiar face in 'support our troops' gatherings in the area, expressed her gratitude to the men and women in uniform for their service and sacrifice.

"We can't say thank you enough for all that you do for us everyday. This is not a farewell but a send-off, as we'll be here when you return from your successful mission," she said.

Company commander Capt. Michael Griffie, humbled for this third opportunity to lead Soldiers, is confident that his 'fast and rugged' engineers are ready to accomplish the task at hand. "They're trained, ready and motivated...can't asked for a better group to deploy with," he said.

He also thanked family members and civilian employers for their continued support, helping troops to remain focus on the mission and to complete military obligations, whether it's deploying overseas or meeting training requirements here at home.

"We couldn't do it without your help," he said.

For Aderemi Olodun, chairman of ESGR East Central Area in Pennsylvania, the forum provided a welcoming opportunity to recognize employers for the difference they make in our Soldiers' lives. The support of dedicated business owners make it easy for Soldiers to return to their civilian jobs because employers have their back.

Olodun acknowledged Mona Lisa Italian Eatery for such support and presented the local business with a plaque as a token of appreciation.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Samuel Spurlock urged Soldiers to remain strong, focused and to take care of each other. Don't get complacent, don't let your guard down because the enemy doesn't sleep, he said.

Spc. Javon Pablo, a native of Talafofo, Guam, is eager to put her training skills to the test in Afghanistan. Pablo joined the unit a few weeks prior to deployment yet already feels at home with her new 'family'.

"The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we'll return home," she said.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students, teachers and school administrators from Gov. Mifflin Intermediate School lined the roadways, waved flags and cheered as buses carrying troops to the airport drove by their school.

"It's amazing to have so many people come out to show their support for our Soldiers. This is an emotional moment for us and I'm sure for the soldiers on the bus," said one observer.

The 333rd Eng. Co. will spend a few weeks at Fort Bliss, Texas, before heading off to the Middle East.