SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Feb. 15, 2010) - When a number of Soldiers of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade embraced their spouses this Valentine's Day weekend, they were also saying goodbye.
Approximately 130 members of the brigade's 201st MI Battalion boarded a chartered airliner at the Kelly Field Annex to Lackland Air Force Base Feb. 14, beginning their deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Soldiers primarily consist of interrogators and information analysts, who will perform their mission at a Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center in Afghanistan.
"The interrogators are trained to conduct interrogations in the methods approved in Army doctrine," said Lt. Col. Dennis Lewis, battalion commander. "We have done a great job of instilling this in their training."
Lewis noted that, last summer, the battalion had anticipated returning to Iraq. However, their destination changed.
"We are very proud of our Soldiers and what they have done in the timeline set out for them," Lewis continued. "It's been quite a ride to get to where we are. Now they are excited to do the job the Army has trained them to do."
Nevertheless, saying taking leave of one's family for what may be a year isn't easy.
"Saying goodbye is the hardest part," said Spc. Rebecca Jubert. She deployed with another unit to Afghanistan before, but that was before the birth of her daughter, now 2. "But I'm ready to go."
The deploying Soldiers said goodbye to their families at Fort Sam Houston earlier in the day, trusting in the proven support structure provided by the brigade's Family Readiness Group.
Two Soldiers have taken on a personal mission. Spc. Patricia Ceballos and Spc. Natalia Valencia are taking along a uniformed teddy bear for the Lighthouse Christian School.
"We're going to write a journal, take photos and send them back with the bear in March," Ceballos said.
"We're going to write from the bear's perspective," Valencia added. "We want to give the kids an idea of what it's like [to deploy]."
Five other Soldiers of the brigade departed for Afghanistan via scheduled airline service from San Antonio International Airport Feb. 13. Four of them deployed as analysts under a Request for Forces Tasking, and one MP deployed under the Worldwide Individual Augmentation System. They responded with only 20 days' notice to fill specified requirements.
"We're proud of how quickly you got ready," said Capt. Jessica Watson, commander of the brigade's headquarters and headquarters company, before they departed Fort Sam Houston. Speaking on behalf of everyone in the brigade, she concluded her farewell by saying, "We're with you all the way."
Col. Jim Lee, brigade commander, said, "This is just one more example of the expeditionary nature of this brigade. These three groups of over 140 Soldiers deploying this weekend are bound for Afghanistan, joining our other 170-plus Soldiers already serving one year tours in the Central Command Area of Responsibility."