Nearly 150 Soldiers from 42nd Engineer Clearance Company, 19th Engineer Battalion, said goodbye to Families and friends in a departure ceremony held at Fort Knox's Sadowski Center Oct. 10.
The unit will deploy to Afghanistan to conduct IED/minesweeping procedures on Afghan roadways during Army missions, said officials at the ceremony.

"We'll provide troop mobility. We'll make sure that the roadways and areas are safe for our Soldiers and civilians to conduct their missions safely in our area of operations," said Capt. Aaron Beattie, 42nd Clearance Company commander. "We want them to be safe in our area and out; we want to protect those forces to make sure there are no explosives or agents that will harm them so they can focus on the mission at hand."

Beattie, who has deployed to Iraq and will return to Afghanistan for his second tour, said deployments are tough, but they seem to go better the more Soldiers stay connected to their Families.

"It's always tough to leave Family behind -- it's tougher now leaving two little ones, but it's just one of those things. You've got to communicate as much as possible," Beattie said. "We're tight and close-knit, and my father keeps telling me, 'Make sure these kids know you love them.' That takes a lot of kisses and hugs, and reminding them that [even though] dad is far away, I'm always here when you need me, so to speak. I'll be home as soon as I can, and we'll pick up where we left off."

Beattie's parents, who are in Christian ministry, have gone through each of the deployments with him. They said they've learned to turn worried concern heavenward.

"It doesn't get any easier, you just have to pray harder," Beattie's mother JoAnn said.
"I'm not losing a son for nine months; I'm gaining about 140 more," added her husband, Willie. "[We and] our church family are looking out for them. We want them to do their jobs and come home safely."

Allison McKay wants the same thing for her husband, Spc. Jason McKay. They married in August 2017 and are expecting their first child in one week.
"It doesn't make it easier, but now I will have someone here with me that I am able to care for and help me to keep my mind off things while he's gone," said Allison, who is expecting a girl. "The closer the baby comes, the closer the day [comes] that Jason deploys. I get my baby girl, but my husband leaves for nine months.

"It's been tough, but we're staying strong and working together. He's not going to be gone long. I have to keep looking at it that way."
A horizontal engineer, trained to work with heavy equipment, Jason said he is just thankful he won't miss seeing the birth of his child.

"She was definitely a surprise," Jason said. "We found out that we were pregnant about three weeks before we found out I was going to be deployed. We should have the baby before I deploy, but the doctors will induce the pregnancy if necessary. I don't want to miss that."
Lt. Col. Brad Morgan, the commander of 19th Engineer Battalion and guest speaker at the ceremony, said a deep commitment is needed on both the war front and home front to protect the home.

"You face a determined enemy. However, this enemy is not as determined as you," said Morgan. "Trust that your brothers and sisters at arms standing to your left, right, front and rear, stand ready to support and defend you always and in all ways. Your strength and success derive from the efforts and commitments from each of you, one to another, and that is the most formidable force known to man.

"Know that this battalion -- your battalion -- stands ready to assist you and your family back here at the home front in any way we can."