FORT BENNING, Ga. - Nearly 150 Soldiers with the 598th Maintenance Company bid farewell to their families Tuesday as the company departed for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.

The company - an element of the 13th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion - is headed to Kandahar Airfield where it will link up with the 43rd Sustainment Brigade to provide maintenance, weapons system repair and vehicle recovery support for the region.

This is the third deployment for the unit, which previously served twice in Iraq.

"Right now, the main challenge is that we are going to a new area and we will need to get settled in," said 1SG Orville Lyttle.

The Soldiers have spent the last several months preparing for their mission of "maintaining the warfighter's equipment," Lyttle said.

CPT Amaka Auer, company commander, said the unit conducted exercises both at Fort Benning and at a maintenance facility in Camp Shelby, Miss.

"Morale is very high - we've done a lot of preparation since I took command and we are ready, ready to support," Auer said.

The families

The parents of SPC Lateshijuan Hayes drove from their home in Mississippi to see their daughter off Tuesday.

"It's hard, tough, but we are going to be praying for her - for all of them to make it back safe and sound," said Hayes' father, Perry Hervey.

This is Hayes' second deployment overseas; her first was with the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y. But unlike her first deployment, Hayes will leave behind a 3-year-old son this time.

"I'm thinking about him and the stuff he will have learned by the time I come back," Hayes said.

Jennifer Evans, the wife of SGT Charles Evans, said this deployment may be more difficult on the couple's oldest child since at 7 she understands her father is leaving.

"She was 4 when he deployed the first time and she really didn't get it but she's old enough now to," said Jennifer, who also has a 15-month-old son.

Evans said she plans to keep their children involved in plenty of activities and to reach out to nearby family and friends.

"As a spouse, you have to know you can make it through this," Jennifer said. "If you have kids, you have to be strong for them and if you need to go shopping - that's an Army wife's cure-all - go shopping and get your mind off of it."

Charles' parents, Mike and Sue Brooks, came down from Griffin, Ga., to see their son off. As departure time neared, the families waved and cheered as the troops boarded buses for Lawson Army Airfield.

"I'm scared but I know he knows enough to come back to me," Sue said. "It's hard every time (to see him go)."

To lighten the mood, Charles created a care package request list for his family.

Mike said the most requested item was "amp energy drinks - purple amp."

"In I.V. bags," Charles joked.