Clyde-based military police head to Afghanistan
The men and women of the Clyde-based 211th Military Police Company will soon be heading overseas for the unit’s second deployment to Afghanistan.
With the motto “Ready When Called” in mind, the 120 soldiers of the unit marched into the auditorium at Haywood Community College Sunday for a send-off ceremony. The community’s support for the unit was clear at the ceremony as the auditorium filled to the brim with family, friends and fellow soldiers wishing them well.
From state legislators like Sen. Jim Davis and Rep. Michelle Presnell to the chain of command for the National Guard, the message of gratitude, support and pride were evident as the soldiers were wished time and again for a successful mission and safe return home.
It was an emotional event for soldiers both who are veterans in combat and for those who have never stepped foot overseas.
It’s only been three months since Specialist Kayla Elkins of the third platoon in the 211th MP unit returned from her first deployment. Her husband of two years, who is in a different platoon, will be embarking on his first deployment at the same time as his wife.
Though serving overseas together will be challenging, she said it is nice to have a spouse who understands what she feels so intimately.
But because it’s his first deployment, she said she has tried to offer him advice that she would tell any other soldier.
“Just take it day by day. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll get to pass it along to other soldiers,” she said.
The entire unit has known about the impending deployment for about a year and recently finished training in Fort Pickett, Virginia.
Elkins said in her experience, the vigorous training leading up to deployment is the most difficult to get through.
“The preparation before you leave is definitely the hardest than when you’re actually there because they mentally and physically prepare you for the worst,” she said.
While no one knows exactly where the soldiers are heading, many of their families do know the feeling of saying goodbye to their loved ones. That’s because many of the uniforms in the crowd have already placed their boots on the ground overseas up to three times before.
Sgt. First Class Randy Kite with the 211th Military Police was first deployed to Iraq for one year in 2010 and will soon spend another year in Afghanistan.
For his wife of 14 years, Emily, the most difficult part about deployment is the time away from her husband and the effect it has on their sons, ages 3 and 6.
"It's hard to know what to do with the kids when they miss their daddy," she said.
But the benefits of war in the modern age is the technology that allows them to stay in touch easier.
"During my deployment to Iraq I Skyped them almost every day," Kite said. "The National Guard and the Army do a good job to make sure that we can talk to our families and that really eases the burden."
Kite expects Afghanistan to be a much harsher environment than Iraq, but he knows the unit is up for the challenge.
"This unit is probably better prepared. These are some of the best soldiers I've ever had the pleasure of training with. These are some amazing people. Some of the best I've ever seen," he said, choking up a little as he spoke.
More than anything, Kite said he loves his job and he loves the military. Every time a person shakes his hand and thanks him for serving, he says "Thank you for allowing me."
The soldiers will be heading for training at Fort Bliss, Texas next weekend and then on to Afghanistan later this fall.