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Minnesota National Guard
Litchfield community says goodbye as the 849th MAC prepares for Afghanistan

Minnesota National Guard LITCHFIELD, Minn- Ninety-five soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard's 849th Mobility Augmentation Company marched into the Litchfield Civic Arena to roaring applause as nearly 500 residents showed their appreciation of the local unit during a departure ceremony Sunday, July 14, 2013, in Litchfield, Minn

Available seating filled up quickly, leaving many well-wishers to take up standing-room only spots as Litchfield Mayor Keith Johnson kicked off the ceremony

"Everybody in this unit made a choice, and that choice was to serve," Johnson, a former Litchfield High School music teacher, said before serenading the crowd with a rendition of "Happy Trails" "I am proud to stand before you and say, 'Thank you'"

Johnson then turned the stage over to the newly-minted commander of the 682nd Engineer Battalion - the 849th's parent unit - Lt. Col. Keith Ferdon Ferdon served as the 849th MAC's commander while the unit was deployed to Kosovo in 2003-2004

"Your Soldiers are about to depart on a very important, and let's face it, dangerous mission," Ferdon said "The efforts they will put forth in the country of Afghanistan will make safer the lives of thousands of Soldiers, as well as countless Afghan civilians

"They will arrive in Afghanistan fully trained and fully equipped to do the mission as safely and as effectively as they can," Ferdon said

Before the ceremony moved outside, where a special flag presentation to the 849th MAC's commander, Capt Matthew Jukkala, would be held, Jukkala addressed the Soldiers he would lead in Afghanistan

"To the Soldiers of the 849th, this is it Hooah!," Jukkala said

"There is a great deal of motivation and excitement in these ranks," he then said to the families of his Soldiers "My number one goal is to bring everyone home in the exact condition we leave in"

The 849th MAC will first travel to Texas, where the unit will conduct two months of pre-deployment training before arriving in Afghanistan later this fall Of the 95 Soldiers leaving, 78 of them will experience their first deployment and 54 will be leaving behind at least one dependant

"We've trained long and hard for this deployment, and we will be well-equipped when we arrive," said Jukkala "This, combined with the great junior leadership in this unit, makes me confident we will safely accomplish our mission I look forward to serving with these Soldiers and the bonds that will be created in challenging times"

"The support for this deployment from the local communities has been amazing," said Jukkala "It means a lot to each of us to know that our families will be taken care of while we are gone"

In addition to the large turnout for the 849th MAC's departure ceremony on July 14, hundreds more, including a police and fire department escort, lined the streets as the Soldiers departed by bus, July 16

While deployed, the unit will be tasked to conduct route clearance missions to ensure mobility of coalition forces in support of Operation Enduring Freedom

July 17, 2013
By Staff Sgt Patrick Loch
34th Infantry Division Public Affairs

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