Mississippi National Guardsmen bound for Afghanistan

By Meggan Gray – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday morning, fourteen Army National Guard Members left from Gulfport, on their way to train for a mission in Afghanistan. They are part of the 231st Survey and Design Team of the 890th Engineering Battalion.

Commander Hugh Kelly welcomes his comrades on a frigid December morning to prepare them for their next mission together.

"I am proud to serve with these guys," explained Sergeant First Class Kelly. "There is no better team that I've ever served on."

This will be their third deployment together in seven years, but saying goodbye to loved ones never gets easier.

"Well, no time is a good time" said Kelly.  "No time is ample time.  But when we're called to duty, that's what we're trained to do and we look forward to doing it, and getting back to our family safely."

Staff Sergeant Shane Jones stayed close to his little girl, Savannah, knowing he has just a few hours left before leaving.  He admits it's especially difficult saying goodbye before the holidays.

"It is, you know. We'll miss all the Christmas decorations, the feeling in the house, the family," said Jones.

Sergeant Brian Kihlken has two little boys he won't be able to spend this Christmas with. But thanks to technology, he'll still be a part of their holiday tradition.

"I'm going to do a web cam and watch them open their presents.  It'll be all right, it's better than last time, I didn't get to do that," said Kihlken.

The 231st Survey and Design team will be working in Afghanistan for the next year, and having their family's support during their deployment is extremely important to their mission.

"Our FRG, our family support group, they support us," said SFC Kelly. "You know, the hardest job of the military is that of the family. We have a tough job when we go down range, but the tough job is right here at home."

The 231st will train in Wisconsin before heading to Afghanistan in January.

Some of the guardsmen have been allowed to return home this holiday season to spend four days with their families, and they all should be home in time for Christmas next year.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.