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65 National Guard Soldiers Deploy to Afghanistan, Kuwait

National Guard

WINDSOR LOCKS -- John Finn wasn't always able to be home with his family during the holidays. This time, it will be his son who will be gone.

"He's a grown man now. I'll just miss talking to him, having lunch just he and I," Finn, a retired sergeant first class with the Army, said of his son Chad Finn, 28, a soldier with the Connecticut National Guard who in the next couple of days will deploy for the first time.

Karen Finn, Chad's mother, was feeling nervous and anxious about his first deployment.

"Can't wait for him to get back," she said.

A send off ceremony was held Tuesday night at the Army Aviation Support Facility for 65 soldiers with the 1109th Theatre Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group based at the Groton-New London Airport who are deploying for around nine months to Afghanistan and Kuwait to provide helicopter maintenance in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Resolute Support mission.

The majority of deploying soldiers will serve in Kuwait. Mission requirements will dictate the actual number of soldiers that will serve in each country.

The NATO mission, launched Jan. 1, provides further training and support for the Afghan security forces and institutions following the end of NATO's combat mission at the end of 2014.

More than 13,000 troops from 42 countries are involved with the mission. The majority of the troops -- 6,800 -- are from the United States.

The unit is replacing another Army unit overseas that has been performing a similar mission. For security reasons, Connecticut National Guard officials would not release any further information about the unit being replaced.

The deploying soldiers from TASM-G will work exclusively on helicopters operated by the U.S. military, and will not train the local population.

"We really are that heavy level of maintenance so it's depot level stuff," Col. Vincent Vannoorbeeck, who leads the unit, said. "We've got some unbelievable craftsmen that can go over there and if an aircraft is damaged we can really make those repairs over and above what a unit can do, so that's really what we bring to it."

The unit also has "a lot of oversight" over contractors, Vannoorbeeck said, "so we may be small in numbers but our span of influence is pretty big over in theater."

Most of the work the unit will be doing will involve extensive maintenance.

"So if there's heavy corrosion or you take some fire from the ground, we're the guys they're going to bring in with a very heavy machine shop, sheet metal kind of guys," Vannoorbeeck said. "We're going to make those kinds of repairs."

About a third of the unit's members, like Chad Finn, are deploying for the first time, according to Vannoorbeeck.

Finn is in human resources, which means he makes sure everyone gets their pay entitlements and all their paperwork squared away.

He said he's going to miss being able to cook for himself while deployed.

Finn's mom, her boyfriend, his dad, his stepmom and his two half-siblings were all there to see him off. He said he planned to communicate with them by email, Facebook and phone when possible.

TASM-G has a full-time workforce of about 300 people including federal technicians, contractors and active duty soldiers. About 400 traditional Guard members, who drill one weekend a month and perform an annual training each year, are also assigned to the unit.

They are the fourth Connecticut Army National Guard unit to deploy this year, bringing the total number of Connecticut soldiers deployed around the world to nearly 240.

The unit last deployed in 2012 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, a mission also requiring a split of forces between Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Soldiers from TASM-G deploy about every three years, which is considered an ambitious deployment schedule, because of their skill set. There are only four TASM-Gs in the country and Connecticut's is responsible for units like the TASM-G in the entire Army.

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