SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Comrades, family, and friends gathered on Hamilton Field to say farewell to Soldiers of the 65th Engineer Battalion on New Year's Eve, as they cased their battalion colors and company guidons in preparation for a deployment to Iraq in early January.

130th Engineer Brigade Commander, Col. Fabian Mendoza, spoke passionately to the Soldiers on the parade field and the families in attendance.

"Let me make one thing clear," he said. "These Soldiers will not fail their mission. They have prepared for months and are ready to accomplish every mission given to them. I have complete confidence in each and every Soldier on the field today."

More than 375 Soldiers of the 65th Eng. Bn., part of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, will deploy to the Tikrit area, north of Baghdad, and will support the 25th Infantry Division with route clearance and combat engineering missions. During the 12-month deployment the Soldiers will also assist and train their Iraqi counterparts.

The "First In, Last Out" battalion is the most decorated engineer battalion in the United States Army, and has a long, distinguished combat history. The 65th defended the island of Oahu after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, then deployed to Guadalcanal and did not return to Hawaii until 12 years later, following the Korean conflict. During that time, the 65th spent more than 800 days in combat. The engineers also fought in the Vietnam War and supported deployments to Bosnia.

Lt. Col. Scott Petersen, Commander, 65th Eng. Bn., will lead the Soldiers into Iraq as part of Task Force Trailblazer. Petersen began his remarks with a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt's famous 1910 speech, "The Man in the Arena."

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat," Petersen said. "I am truly thankful to be entering the arena with all of you."

Petersen added that his Soldiers are prepared and ready for what lies ahead and thanked the families for their unwavering support.

"You too (the families) are doers of deeds. Words cannot express our thanks for your support and dedication," he said.

This is the first deployment for Cpl. Patrick Lopez, a Signal Support Systems Specialist with Forward Support Company, 65th Eng. Bn. Lopez and his wife, Shelly, have four children, ages 13, 11, 9, and 19 months.

"We have a positive outlook on this deployment," said Lopez. "We spent the holidays together and I should be home before next Christmas, so we're already counting the days."