National Guardsmen say goodbye in Friday deployment ceremony

Mayor, sheriff, others take part in farewell for 150 headed to Afghanistan

Nearly 150 Army National Guardsmen said good-bye to friends and family Friday before being deployed for the remainder of the year.


“It’s game time,” Lt. Col. Eduardo Granados, the commander of the 878th Engineer Batallion, said to the crowd.

The guardsmen will spend six weeks training in Texas before shipping out to southern Afghanistan. Granados said troops won’t return until after Christmas.

“We have the best people, equipment and training in the history of the Army so we’re set up for success,” he said.

What the troops do need, he said, is their families’ support and frequent handwritten letters.

Malique Gibbons, 17, of Thomson, shared several moments with his father after the ceremony at Whole Life Ministries on Washington Road. The teen said he’s going to miss seeing his father at sporting events but he’s glad he’ll be home in time for his graduation.

His father, Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Gibbons, said he was full of anticipation as he prepares to leave. It’s his second deployment – his first was to Iraq from 2003-04.

“I’m just ready to get over there and get the mission started,” he said.

Col. Andy Hall, the brigade commander of the 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, said there were likely mixed emotions about the deployment, but he asked guardsmen and family to put pride first.

“Everything you do, do it with pride,” he said.

Maj. Flint Tyler said he’s excited about the mission after a year of training and looks forward to working with the Afghan National Army.

His wife Randa was not as excited to be left home alone with a “house full of boys,” but said her husband’s excitement made it easier.

“It’s a good mission,” she said. “He’s looking forward to it.”

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Augusta commissioners Mary Davis and Alvin Mason, and Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree attended the ceremony and wished the troops luck overseas.

“We’ll be praying for you guys every single day,” Copenhaver said.