Big sendoff: National Guard unit deploys to Kuwait

I was invited to the deployment ceremony of a military unit from the area. The challenge once I arrived was finding the local voices within the communities I serve. That piece could have turned out better, but overall I was pleased with the outcome.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul speaks with Staff Sgt. Steven Cleveland and his wife, Sherry, both of Clarence.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul speaks with Staff Sgt. Steven Cleveland and his wife, Sherry, both of Clarence.
By Les Bowen for Genesee Country Express   |   Feb. 2, 2012   |   Original source

[S]eventy-five soldiers, their friends and family joined Saturday afternoon in a departure ceremony at the New York State Armory in Geneseo. New York Army National Guard’s Company A, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment.

The group is part of a the full company that heads first to a two-month training in Mississippi before continuing to Kuwait for a one-year tour of duty.

Command Sgt. Maj. David Oliver noted the history of Company A, responding to protect government installations after 9/11 and leading military efforts in New York City in 2004 and 2005, Arizona in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2007.

“Company A has always led the way,” Oliver said. He added that the unit’s success has relied on the support of family and friends back home.

Col. Gary Yaple, chief of staff for the 42nd Infantry Division, advised the deploying to set six goals. First, he said, the live the Army values. Second, he told soldiers to take care of both fellow soldiers and themselves. Third, get adequate rest and maintain physical activity. Fourth, maintain contact with family. Fifth, pray often, and sixth, do your best to come home safe.

“We are in Washington thinking of you, “Rep. Kathy Hochul in New York’s 26th Congressional District. “You are in our hearts and in our minds and I have two simple words to deliver: thank you. Thank you from a grateful nation for the sacrifice that you make.”

She noted that less than 1 percent of Americans are enlisted military personnel.

Local voices

Lafaye
Lafaye

Staff Sgt. Gregory Lafaye

HOMETOWN Dansville
MILITARY SERVICE 10 years, third deployment.

Lafaye said the deployment to Kuwait is a new challenge. “We signed up for this, it’s the job we took on. It’s out duty to do it.”

MacGregor
MacGregor

Spc. Brandon MacGregor

HOMETOWN Hornell
MILITARY SERVICE 5 years, first deployment

“I am eager and looking forward to the opportunity to be out there. I’m sad to be away from my family for a year, but it’s what you’ve got to do.”