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SALT LAKE CITY — About 150 soldiers of the Utah National Guard's 624th Engineer Company, 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, leave on the first leg of their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan Wednesday morning.
For Sgt. Phillip Bassett and his family, it is never easy saying goodbye. His wife, Kristina, is pregnant with twin boys and will deliver without her husband by her side.
"It's kind of a bummer for not being there for the first birth, but I know when I get back I'll be able to spend as much time as I can with them," Sgt. Bassett said. "All that time I lost I'll get back with them."
"It will be a challenge, but we'll get over it," added Kristina Bassett.
The Carr family is saying goodbye to three soldiers today. This is the father's third deployment and the first for his two sons.
"It doesn't get any easier, but at least I have my boys going with me to help me out, and I help them out when I can," Staff Sgt. Ivan Carr said. "It will be better."
But for mother Lisa Carr, she said it is hard watching her sons say goodbye to their children — something she's lived through many times before.
It's kind of a bummer for not being there for the first birth, but I know when I get back I'll be able to spend as much time as I can with them. All that time I lost I'll get back with them.
–Sgt. Phillip Bassett
"They opened the car door this morning and Zane was laying there smiling and it broke my heart to know that this will be the last time he see dad for a while," Lisa Carr said.
Following a departure ceremony at the Utah Air National Guard Base, the soldiers will depart aboard two flights bound for Fort Bliss, Texas. They will spend several weeks there getting additional training before heading overseas.
Once in Afghanistan, the unit will perform vertical construction (the building of structures and buildings) in the U.S. Central Command area of operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Individual soldiers involved have deployed previously, but this is the first time the unit has deployed since it was created in 2008.
"Most of us have been training for a long time to do this," said Capt. Chris Vernon. "We're excited to do this for the mission, but it's leaving the family members behind that's the hard part."
The unit is based in Springville and has detachments in Price and Vernal. Soldiers assigned to each of these locations will deploy together as a unit.
Contributing: Marc Giauque