FORT GORDON, Ga. - Family and friends greeted more than 290 soldiers assigned to the 67th Signal Battalion (Expeditionary), 35th Signal Brigade, Jan. 2 during a departure ceremony held at Gym 3 at Fort Gordon, Ga.

The soldiers will complete a nine-month deployment in various areas throughout the Middle East in order to provide theater-wide communication support operations for Operation Enduring Freedom.

"As we not only live history but we shape history, we, the 67th Signal Battalion, have two main goals for this deployment," said Lt. Col. Calondra L. Fortson, 67th ESB commander. "First, to provide the 'best of the best' tactical and strategic communications support; and secondly, to safely redeploy all of us back with a hero's badge of honor for all the great accomplishments we are destined to achieve."

The 67th ESB executed months of training in preparation for the deployment. The battalion conducted a culminating training exercise in October 2012. The CTE was the last major training exercise a unit does before deployment to evaluate the total battalion mission readiness.

"Coming in as an officer, I was expected to lead Soldiers," said 2nd Lt. Garnett Lias, a platoon leader, with 18 months of service experience. "Many of the soldiers that come here already have combat experience. To give good advice, I have to go through it to get that level of experience. It is what I joined for, to be part of the fight and make history."

The battalion is a mixture of soldiers with combat experience and soldiers that will gain combat experience through the deployment. Regardless of the experience level, all the soldiers have been trained and are ready to deploy.

"I am excited to get out of country and see other places and cultures," said Pvt. Levi K. Sapien, a satellite communication systems operator maintainer, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company. "My dad is excited about my opportunity to deploy. My mom is a little nervous, and my brother looks up to me for joining the Army."

The movement of 800,000 pounds of equipment and rolling stock to the Middle East was one of Fort Gordon's largest strategic airlift operations, stated Capt. Kyle D. Scott, a logistics officer in charge of movement operations for the battalion.

Spc. Alexander D. Bishop of A Co., 67th ESB, helped load equipment into a C-5 military aircraft. "This has been my coolest experience in the Army and an experience that will last throughout my Army career."