Family and friends gathered at Cyril E. King Airport Thursday to bid farewell to six brave V.I. soldiers who will be deploying to Afghanistan for the next year.
The troops will be part of the detachments for the 104th RAID (Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment) Unit, which will be using advanced military equipment to "scout the enemy" in the field, according to officials. Training for the mission was held over the past seven months, and the troops said Thursday that they are prepared for the job.
"These soldiers are proud soldiers; they are part of a unit that’s been training for the last seven months, and I think they’re going to do a great job," said Lt. Colonel Richard Kemp, commander for the 786th CSSB battalion. "I think they’re going to do a great job, we wish them all well, and we hope to see them back a year from now."
Each of the troops have volunteered for the mission that Kemp said was handed down by the U.S. Army, and many of them were excited to go.
"We had a lot of training for this, so I’m more than prepared for what’s to come," said VING soldier Terrence Bartley, whose mother and father and sister also came to the airport to see him off. "It’s going to be a new experience, a learning experience, and I’m anxious to see what we’re going to do."
Bartley’s mother, Ruth Bartley, said she’s proud that her son is taking on the mission.
"Just the fact that he’s doing this, I know it means that he enjoys what he does and is committed to the task of taking care of us as a nation and as part of the Virgin Islands," she said. "I know this is something that will also make him proud, and with God’s speed and God’s protection, I know that he’ll be fine."
Some of the soldiers also had special messages for their children, including VING’s Okil Freeman Sr., who said his son was at home asleep while the soldiers deployed at 6 a.m. Thursday.
"I’m going to miss my family dearly, especially my son," he said. "I know he’s at home sleeping right now, but I want him to keep his head up, and to my mom and girlfriend, please take care and know that I’ll be back safely."