116th National Guard Brigade to Deploy to Afghanistan

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Members of the 116th Brigade of the Virginia National Guard in Staunton have received orders to mobilize for active duty in Afghanistan.

About 175 soldiers will begin serving on active duty May 15.

Before the troops even get to Afghanistan, they'll be doing a lot of training stateside.

They'll spend about ten days doing pre-mobilization training at Fort Pickett in Virginia before heading to Camp Shelby in Mississippi for an additional 45 to 60 days of training for their duties in Afghanistan.

Those duties will include serving as command and control headquarters for counter insurgency operations in Afghanistan.

Col. Eric Barr, Deputy Commander of the 116th Brigade Combat Team, says, "We'll be providing command and control to maneuver units on the ground; both active army and reserve component forces and probably some multinational forces as well. So it's a very broad scope mission."

CW4 Edgar Marquis is no stranger to deployments. This upcoming deployment to Afghanistan will be his sixth, but that doesn't make leaving any easier.

"It gets harder every time when you leave for a year and you don't see your family except through a camera and it's hard on the family, but after being married 17 years, my wife has adjusted every time," says Marquis.

The deployments are also tough on children.

"My youngest doesn't really know. I explain to her that I'm going to school . She's about six. But my son is 17 and he's been through it four or five times," adds Marquis.

Sgt. E5 David Uptegrow won't be leaving a wife and children behind, but he'll still miss his family.

"At the same time I'm missing my siblings, my mother, my father," explains Uptegrow.

However, today's evolving technology is making it a bit easier for the troops to stay in touch with their loved ones.

"I don't have to use pen and pad. I can just see their faces and actually hear their voices," comments Uptegrow.

Marquis adds, "When I first started out, I would send letters on a box-top and send it through the mail and got it that way and as technology grew and I'm in the technology field, it has made it a little easier."

While getting in touch might be easier now, Marquis says nothing beats the feeling of coming home.

He says, "Every homecoming it's worth it because when you come back, I look at it as I've done something bigger than myself".

While the majority of the soldiers will be called to active duty in May, Marquis will actually be leaving for Afghanistan next week to do scout work in advance of the mission.

The last time the 116th was mobilized was in June 2007 for a nine-month deployment to Iraq.