FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (April 10, 2016) -- Tearful eyes and bright smiles filled a hangar for the departure ceremony of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team's 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, known as the Hurricanes.

Joined by members of Alpha Company, 1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment, approximately 700 Florida National Guard Soldiers are deploying to the Horn of Africa for a 12-month mission in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, as part of the on-going missions in East Africa.

"This brigade has the largest global footprint of any other National Guard Infantry Brigade in the country with assets deployed throughout Central America and now a critical back-to-back rotation on the African continent," said Army Maj. Gen. Michael A. Calhoun, The Adjutant General of Florida.

Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Calvi, a Soldier with A Company, 1/153rd Cavalry Regiment, is no stranger to deployments and understands the importance of his mission. He also knows that family and communication coupled with the training they have received will ensure mission success.

"I'm very thankful for my family and the support I have from them," said Calvi. "Deployments can be stressful, but through proper support channels, we will be fine."

With over 19,000 Florida National Guard forces deployed since 9/11, military families like Calvi's have become familiar with the deployment process, whether for an overseas mission or a domestic response effort. Without their support, the state of Florida would not have the high level of readiness it has achieved.

"The Florida National Guard has a reputation for competence and readiness to support our state and nation, and I could not be more proud of every Soldier standing here today," said Calhoun. "You not only sacrifice for our nation overseas, but also respond to disasters and provide life-saving relief to citizens in our state."

Army Lt. Col. Julio Acosta, commander of the 1/124th Hurricanes, spoke of 'The Minuteman,' with his musket and plow and how those items symbolize that the Guardsman is not only a warrior during times of conflict, but also a member of the community.

"While our Citizen Soldiers are away, it is the community that must continue to watch over their families as they are the ones who remain to plow the fields," said Acosta. "The Soldiers and families of the 'Hurricane' Battalion are truly the strength of our communities, our state and our nation. I wish you the very best luck and Godspeed."

The Hurricanes will replace their sister battalion, the 2-124th Infantry Seminoles from Orlando, who deployed to the Horn of Africa last year along with Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment from Pensacola.