ORLANDO, Fla. – Soldiers, family, and friends gathered together at the 1st Lt. David R. Wilson Armed Forces Reserve Center to wish farewell to troops of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) as they leave to support Operation Enduring Freedom June 15.
After months of preparation, the leadership of the 143rd ESC officially furled and cased the unit’s colors during the mid-morning farewell ceremony. The colors will be uncased once the ESC reaches its new destination overseas.
During the farewell event, focus was on the families, as leaders and keynote speakers recognized the sacrifices that spouses, children, and parents make.
“We are honored you’re here today,” said Brig. Gen. Bryan Wampler, commanding general, 143rd ESC. “You will be in our hearts and minds.”
After the ceremony, soldiers and family members enjoyed food and beverages. Activities included an inflatable bounce house for the kids, dunk tank, and weapons simulator. Also, military vehicles and equipment were on hand for demonstrations.
Deploying for the first time, Spc. Alex Nieves, financial management technician, 143rd ESC, looks forward to learning more about his job in a deployed environment.
“It’s hard to get trained when you’re coming in just once a month,” he said.
“I’m happy for him, because I know this is his life,” said Brenda, Nieves’s wife. “He likes the military, so I’m happy for him. Of course I’m sad that he’s going away, but we know he’ll be back soon.”
Slated to conduct command-level sustainment operations in the U.S. Army Central Command’s area of responsibility (AOR), the 143rd ESC will be heading overseas this summer in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The AOR comprises of over 20 countries and stretches from Kazakhstan down to Egypt.
“There’s a tremendous sense of impatience,” said Col. Kevin Sullivan, chief, support operations, 143rd ESC, with two previous deployments to Bosnia and Iraq. “They’re ready to get over there. I’m excited, they’re excited.”
Sullivan believes that with young, new soldiers, an outstanding noncommissioned officer corps, and seasoned senior leadership, the 143rd ESC is bound for success.
In addition to annual training and monthly battle assemblies, troops of the 143rd prepared for this deployment by attending a combat support training exercise (CSTX) and soldier readiness processing (SRP). The 143rd ESC will conduct final preparations for its deployment at Fort Hood, Texas.
Family members have also received pre-deployment training as they attended phase one of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program. Separated into four parts, YRRP introduces soldiers and their dependents to resources and services available to them before, during, and after deployments.
“I’m always concerned about the family,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Julio Pagan, human resources technician, support operations, 143rd ESC. “That’s always my number one concern, not to worry about myself.”
Pagan, heading on his fourth deployment, leaves behind a wife, daughter, and infant son.
“Draw upon each other,” said Maj. Gen. Peter Lennon, commanding general, 377th Theater Sustainment Command, during the farewell ceremony. “The strength of the soldier is the family that loves him.”
Over 250 soldiers will deploy with HHC, 143rd ESC. The troops will mobilize in two groups. One element will deploy to Afghanistan and the other to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The soldiers will deploy during the time period when U.S. armed forces and its allies are in retrograde operations in Afghanistan. When not deployed, the 143rd ESC commands and controls more than 100 Army Reserve units in the Southeast, totaling approximately 10,000 soldiers.