National Guard Members Buoyed by Deployment Ceremony

CONCORD -- For the third time in seven years, members of the New Hampshire Army National Guard's Fixed Wing Operational Support Airlift Command Detachment 18 (OA DET 18) are being deployed to the Middle East.

Ten New Hampshire Guardsmen, along with two volunteers from other states, will make up the team that will provide medium-range transportation of personnel and sensitive cargo in a C-12 twin-engine turboprop in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The first time the unit was deployed was in September 2007, when members went to Kuwait for six months as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In October 2010, the unit took part in Task Force Odin, providing aerial reconnaissance through Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.

The latest mission is a nine-month deployment, with the base of operations in northern Kuwait, to transport personnel and sensitive cargo within all countries of the Central Command Area which includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Jordan.

For a couple of the 10 Guardsmen, it will be their first deployment. For others, it is their third or, like pilot and Chief Warrant Officer 4 George Munson of Bedford, their fourth.

He wouldn't have it any other way.

With a combined 26 years in the U.S. Army and Guard, he said, "This is what I do."

His wife, Ginger, and four children all told him how proud they are of him, he said.

"It was pleasant to hear because it's hard to leave, but I'm proud to go," he said.

Newlywed Sgt. Keri Wareing of Weare, who married fellow Guardsman Christopher Wareing in May, volunteered for the mission, even though it's only been a year since she returned from Afghanistan.

Wareing, who is in flight operations, previously was assigned to a medevac helicopter unit. She jumped at the opportunity to work with the aviation unit, which will be flying missions in the C-12.

"It was the opportunity to serve again, but on a different mission," said Wareing, 23, who joined the Guard after graduating from high school.

The 10 New Hampshire Army National Guard members were given a rousing send-off by hundreds of family members, friends, fellow Guardsmen and politicians Wednesday morning at the Army Aviation Support Facility.

New Hampshire's full congressional delegation, "Codel" in Guard parlance -- U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, and U.S. Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster -- were on hand to offer their support for the soldiers and their families and thank them for their service.

Gov. Maggie Hassan was unable to attend the ceremony, which conflicted with a Governor and Executive Council meeting.

Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn said she had met with the 10 Guardsmen and their families in her office.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joseph Ducey, who has been deployed three times and, for the second time, is commanding the unit, received a standing ovation. He has a combined 34 years of service in the Guard and U.S. Army Reserves. The unit will head to Fort Bliss, Texas, later this week for a month of training before going to Kuwait, according to Lt. Col. Heilshorn.

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