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First 3d ESC Soldiers deploy to Afghanistan

April 5, 2012

By Sgt. 1st Class Rob Strain

FORT KNOX, Ky. (April 4, 2012) -- While much of Fort Knox's interest was focused on the activities on Fort Knox's Brooks Field the morning of April 4, the attention of about 50 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldiers and their Families were tightly focused on one thing -- saying goodbye.

For those Soldiers, the day's big event was not the color casing ceremony about to happen on the parade field nearby; their big event was taking place much further away.

The Soldiers, the 3d ESC's advanced party, departed Fort Knox for Afghanistan just before the unit cased its colors on Brooks Field.

For one Sustainer, the day was one of both confidence and sadness.

"I'm confident about the deployment, but sad to leave my family," said Spc. Gary Echlin, a human resources specialist and St. Louis native.

Echlin had been away on temporary duty for short periods but had not been deployed before.

"I've never had to leave for that long before," Echlin added.

His wife Jessica said the most challenging part would be the uncertainty.

"Being apart, and not knowing when I'll be able to talk to him next," she said.

Echlin plans to keep in touch with his wife and two children using instant messenger and video chat programs to make the deployment easier.

Other Soldiers were more anxious about actually leaving than the deployment itself.

"I'm ready to go," said Spc. Briana Hawkes, a supply specialist also on her first deployment.

"Let's get it over with," she added, explaining that she just wanted to say goodbye and get on with the mission so she can come back home to her daughter.

The remaining 3d ESC Soldiers will deploy later this month for a nine-month deployment.

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