By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterFebruary 28, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 28, 2013) -- Family members and Soldiers of the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group gathered at Knox Army Heliport Feb. 25 to say goodbye to and wish their fellow Soldiers good luck as they deploy to Southwest Asia.
Nine Soldiers of the 597th Maintenance Detachment of the 164th TAOG deployed to Kuwait to support operations in Afghanistan, according to CW4 Steven Hess, 597th Maintenance Detachment officer in charge.
"Today we're sending out the 21st Special Repair Activity team, which we've been doing since the inception of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003," he said. "We've had Soldiers deploy from this unit in constant rotations from Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq -- our mission is very important to airfield operations."
Col. Michael L. Shenk, Air Traffic Services Command and 164th TAOG commander, was on hand to offer words of encouragement to the Soldiers and remind them that they are appreciated, especially in times of deployment.
"[These deployments] seem to happen quite often, but my wife and I are very proud of the 597th Maintenance Detachment. I don't know that there's another detachment or company that has been deployed consecutively for so long," he said. "This team looks a lot like the other teams that are out there, but it's going to do its own special mission in its own special way."
The detachment has been deployed constantly since 1996 as Special Repair Activity teams, according to Hess, and aid in maintenance and training for airfield operations equipment.
"This small team travels all over the geography of Southwest Asia and does a very important mission for us by helping keep our air traffic services equipment operational," said Shenk. "We're very proud of what they've done in the past. We appreciate your dedication to the Army, your dedication to your Families and your dedication to the mission that you'll be performing."
Hess offered advice to Family members that are left behind during the deployment.
"We have the Family readiness group to help [Family members] deal with deployments and we host deployed spouses dinners and [other social events] to help them through these [difficult times]," he said. "We also try to have them keep in constant contact throughout the deployment to make sure everything is OK."
Some of the Soldiers expressed a variety of emotions, from anxiety to uncertainty, in anticipation of the deployment, and others seemed to know exactly what to expect, like Sgt. 1st Class Latasha Williams, maintenance NCO in charge of the deploying team.
"This is my second time deploying, and the last time I was deployed I went to Iraq, but this time it's a little bit more exciting because I'm in charge of my team. I know what to expect since I'll be the one giving the orders," she said. "We're all going to try to make the best of the time we have out there and stay motivated."
Williams said that before the deployment, Soldiers must be prepared mentally and physically for the separation to be ready.
"When you know you're about to deploy, you have to prepare yourself mentally for the separation from your Family, which can be hard," she said. "Since I'm a single Soldier, though, I just had to make sure that my Soldiers were prepared."
She also spoke on what it takes to adapt to a different environment and although she is leading the team during this deployment, she feels confident that her team will perform the way they were trained to perform.
"Even though this is only my second deployment, [it's] something that I've come somewhat accustomed to and it feels like just another transition to me," said Williams. "Since we're deploying as a small team, [we're] a close-knit Family and I don't feel that there is much more pressure just because I'm in charge -- I just know my role, and the [other Soldiers] understand that as well."