Members of Detachment 1 of the 149th Vertical Construction Company, based in Olive Hill, were honored at a deployment ceremony last Sunday at West Carter High School.

After a brief stop in Texas, the Kentucky Army National Guard unit is bound for a tour of duty in Afghanistan that will keep them away from home for at least nine months.

Brig. Gen. Mike Richie, commander of the Kentucky Joint Force Land Component, was on hand to address the unit as it prepared for departure.

“You're going to be rebuilding a nation. It's a very important mission so that we can get out of that part of the world and turn things back over to them. I have no doubt that you will exceed all expectations,” the general told the troops and their families.

During the unit's last deployment to Afghanistan in 2008-09, its primary mission was detection and removal of landmines.

This time, however, the company has a different mission, to construct facilities for use by Afghan forces who will be responsible for defending the country when U.S. forces are withdrawn next year.

Sen. Robin Webb highlighted the gap that the unit will leave in the community during its overseas deployment.

“You are the fabric of this community and our commonwealth,” she stated. “We, as a community, will try to fill the void and help with the challenges that your families will face while you're gone.”

“You have a place in our hearts, in our minds, and in our prayers,” Webb said with tears in her eyes.

Those bound for deployment will assemble one last time at the Olive Hill armory this week to “load up and weigh in” before finally heading out.

“You are courageous,” said State Rep. Jill York. “You are committed. And it's obvious that you have great love of country. “Here before us are Kentucky's finest; our American strength – our American soldiers.”

Joe Lewis can be reached at or by telephone at 286-4201.

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