BCT Heading for Afghanistan to Assist Pullout

About 200 soldiers with the Army National Guard's 48th Brigade's Infantry Combat Team will be leaving for training Sunday before deployment to Afghanistan.

There will be a send-off ceremony at 9 a.m. Sunday for the soldiers in the unit that's headquartered on Shurling Drive in Macon. The ceremony will be at the Macon Marriott City Center at 240 Coliseum Drive, according to a statement from the 48th Brigade.

The soldiers will depart on buses immediately after the ceremony and head to their mobilization training at Camp Shelby, Miss. They are scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan, part of Operation Enduring Freedom, in January.

The majority of the 48th Brigade's soldiers will be joining the Kabul Base Cluster, which includes several military bases around Afghanistan's capital, said Maj. Kevin Nicklay, brigade combat personnel officer and adjutant.

At the Kabul Base Cluster, 48th Brigade soldiers will be responsible for life support and security operations.

They also will be involved with helping shut down some bases as part of President Barack Obama's Afghanistan withdrawal plans, "moving vehicles, equipment, all that stuff," Nicklay said.

Other soldiers not part of the Kabul Base Cluster will help operate and eventually shut down small bases in northern Afghanistan.

The missions will include a combination of operations, logistics and security experts from units throughout the Georgia Army National Guard, Nicklay said.

Several soldiers were profiled this year by the 48th Brigade's public affairs specialist Hannah Fulcher for the brigade's Facebook page.

"Soldiers of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are not just soldiers," Fulcher wrote.

"They are your local grocery store manager, your son's baseball coach, your daughter's Sunday School teacher, your next door neighbor."

For the past few months, soldiers taking part in the deployment have prepared with medical, language and cultural awareness training and weapon certification, Nicklay said.

The buses will leave the Macon Marriott about 10:15 a.m. and travel south through town with a police escort and the Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles.

The route will be Coliseum Drive to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Houston Avenue to Eisenhower Parkway, then south on Interstate 75.

Midstate residents are invited to the ceremony and to line the departure route in support of the soldiers.

Among those scheduled to attend Sunday's ceremony are Macon Mayor Robert Reichert and Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, adjutant general of Georgia.

The 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which is made up of 3,600 soldiers, has deployed several times in recent years, including to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

During its last deployment from June 2009 to May 2010 in Afghanistan, the 48th suffered an estimated 49 wounded in action and eight combat related deaths, according to its Facebook page.

Overall, the U.S. military has lost 2,155 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and 19,484 have been wounded in action, according to the State Department.

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Army Afghanistan