GEORGIA BAPTIST CONVENTION CONFERENCE CENTER, Toccoa, Ga. May 29, 2014 – The Georgia Army National Guard’s 876th Vertical Engineer Company stood tall as family and friends cheered during their departure ceremony May 29, 2014 at the Georgia Baptist Convention Conference Center in Toccoa. They are the last Georgia ARNG unit scheduled to depart for Afghanistan.
“This is one of the few vertical engineer units in the nation, chosen for their unique skill that our military needs in Afghanistan right now,” said Col. R. Scott Carter, commander of the 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. “They are ready; they are well trained; they are well equipped; but more importantly, they are well led.”
Commanded by Capt. Tyler Cook and 1st Sgt. Danny Williamson, the unit will conduct repair and construction operations to include plumbing, electrical, carpentry and concrete work for facilities in their assigned area of operations. They will also train their Afghan counterparts to do the same.
“I see this day as the beginning and end of a journey, because for 13 years America has been fighting a war on terror,” said Capt. Tyler Cook. “The 150 brave men and women sitting behind me see this as an opportunity to serve their country and its people; an opportunity to make sure their family’s freedom remains secure for generations to come. The Guardsmen here represent the best of America’s ideals, willing to fight for the values we all share.”
The 150 engineers will join 260 other Georgia Army National Guardsmen currently serving in Afghanistan and will be counted among the 5,000 plus Georgia Army National Guardsmen that have served in Afghanistan since the War on Terror began.
In addition to training for their unique engineer mission, the unit has been preparing to keep in touch with their family, community partners, and employers while deployed.
“We are ready. We have a really strong family readiness group and FRG leader. We have been using newsletters and publishing photos to Face Book so that all of our Guardsmen’s families stay informed and connected.”
The president announced earlier this week that another 22,000 troops will come home by the end of 2014, leaving 9,800 U.S. service members in different parts of Afghanistan, contingent upon the signing of a bilateral security agreement and a status of forces agreement. By the end of 2015, that presence could be reduced by half.
"It means a lot to us, to be the last ones from Georgia to take this role on," said Spc. Shawn Israel. “We are a trained and we are ready.”