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Local Guard unit deploying to Kuwait

200 Springfield-based soldiers won’t return until March, 2014.

About 200 soldiers from a Springfield-based Ohio Army National Guard brigade are deploying to the Middle East.

The soldiers from the 371st Sustainment Brigade will leave Monday for training at Fort Hood in Texas before deploying to Kuwait in June as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, deputy commander Lt. Col. Thom Haidet said Friday.

An additional 76 soldiers will deploy in June, he said.

The soldiers, who hail from cities and towns around the state, are expected to return home next March.

The public is invited to attend the soldiers’ call-to-duty ceremony at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Wittenberg University HPER Center, 250 Bill Edwards Drive.

“Leaving family and loved ones behind is the toughest thing,” Haidet said.

A 48-year-old Westerville resident, Haidet will leave behind three children and his wife of 21 years, Natalie.

“This will be my third deployment,” he said. “It’s not gotten any easier.”

Even still, excitement is high among the soldiers.

“We’ve been training for this for two years,” said Haidet, who arrived Friday morning at Fort Hood as part of an eight-member advance team.

The brigade last deployed in 2008 to Iraq, and has been based in Springfield since 2011, when brigade headquarters relocated from Kettering to a new, $17.3 million facility near the Springfield Air National Guard Base.

In 2003, the brigade also deployed to Kuwait.

The soldiers deploying this time are all from the local headquarters, Haidet said. Those soldiers will manage the supply chain of goods coming in and out of Kuwait, from mail and fuel to ammunition and repair parts.

The brigade has a total strength of about 1,700 soldiers statewide, including a transportation battalion which, in turn, is made up of several transportation companies and detachments.

In March, the brigade lost one of its own in Afghanistan, when Spc. Cody Dalton Suggs, a 22-year-old from West Alexandria assigned to the 1487th Transportation Company in Piqua, was killed in a noncombat incident at Kandahar Airfield.

As Haidet explained, deploying to the Middle East produces more anxiety among family members, who often get unnerved by news reports, than it does among the soldiers themselves.

“It’s easier for us,” Haidet said. “We know what the conditions are, and we’ve accepted the risks.”

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