Florida Guard engineer units honored during deployment ceremony in Quincy

Written by  //  February 15, 2012  //  Feature Stories

Soldiers from the 869th Engineer Company and 669th Engineer Detachment gather outside the James A. Shanks Middle School in Quincy, Fla., Feb. 15, 2012, as dignitaries and community members wish them well on a year-long deployment. While deployed, the Soldiers will provide military engineering support for Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

QUINCY, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2012) – More than 140 Guardsmen from North Florida are on their way to Afghanistan, following a deployment ceremony in Quincy this afternoon that drew the state’s top officials and hundreds of community members.

Soldiers from the 869th Engineer Company and 669th Engineer Detachment gathered outside the James A. Shanks Middle School as dignitaries including Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll wished them well on a year-long deployment. While deployed, the Soldiers will provide military engineering support for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, and Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw Jr. applaud for the Soldiers of the 869th Engineer Company and 669th Engineer Detachment in Quincy, Fla., Feb. 15, 2012, prior to the Soldiers' deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

“On behalf of the over 19 million Floridians, we thank each of you for honoring the call to serve our country,” Gov. Scott told the deploying Soldiers. “…Florida is absolutely safer because of your service. America is stronger because of your service.”

The governor also reiterated his support for helping returning military members find employment, mentioning the state’s Hiring Florida’s Heroes campaign; the year-long effort is aimed at connecting returning National Guardsmen and other veterans with job openings as Florida’s economy continues to improve.

“One thing we can do for you is ensure that you have the support when you return home, and that includes jobs,” Gov. Scott said. “I recently joined business leaders to make a commitment to our military and veterans; through our (Hiring Florida’s Heroes) campaign we are committed to making sure you have a job when you come back.”

Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr. also expressed the National Guard’s commitment to support its Soldiers during the deployment, and thanked the families of those Soldiers for their support.

“You have our undying gratitude for your service to this nation through your Soldier that you support,” the general said. “The sacrifice that you endure is recognized and valued by the Florida National Guard.”

The 869th Engineer Company’s Sgt. 1stClass Henry James, who is making his second deployment overseas with the Florida National Guard, said he and his Soldiers appreciated the support of their families and the community at the deployment ceremony.

The 869th Engineer Company's Sgt. 1st Class Henry James, who is making his second deployment overseas with the Florida National Guard, in Quincy, Fla., Feb. 15, 2012. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

“I think it’s great that everybody came together today,” James said. “It’s not just a deployment for the 869th, but it’s a deployment for the City of Quincy.”

Quincy-resident Staff Sgt. Bobby Sanders of the 669th Engineer Company, who is also making his second deployment to Southwest Asia with the Florida National Guard, said he feels proud knowing his community and family are so supportive of the Soldiers in his unit.

“This is a big thing that is happening to Quincy,” he said of the small city northwest of Florida’s capital. “I feel a lot of pride about it.”

Sanders noted that after nearly 34 years in the Florida National Guard, this would be his last overseas deployment.

“My wife said this will be the last time. I said ‘Okay. It will be then,’” Sanders said with a laugh.

The engineer units will complete additional training at both Camp Shelby, Miss., and Ft. Bliss, Texas, before heading to Afghanistan.

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