Guard company starts journey to Afghanistan
“When they return, they will know they played a significant role in upholding democracy, which is what makes our country the best in the world.” Brig. Gen. Joanne sheridan
CARVILLE — Tarren Kingsley choked up as he talked Sunday about his Louisiana National Guard unit’s responsibility as it geared up to deploy to Afghanistan.
Kingsley, the commander of the National Guard’s 756th Area Support Medical Company, was one of 60 soldiers honored Sunday morning in a deployment ceremony at the Gillis W. Long Center’s 415th Armory auditorium.
“Our mission is to take care of soldiers,” said Kingsley, a major who joined the 756th in 2003 and has been its leader since February. “We have the outcome of soldiers’ lives in our hands.”
A health service and support unit, the 756th Area Support Medical Company is divided into three platoons — treatment, ambulance and headquarters — and made up of medical occupation specialists.
They will provide emergency medical, dental and evacuation services to U.S. soldiers at six operational sites over a 50-mile span from Bagram to Kabul in Afghanistan.
“Today, these citizen soldiers are stepping up to the plate to serve our state and nation when we need them the most,” said Brig. Gen. Joanne Sheridan, the Guard’s deputy adjutant general and first female general.
Several hundred friends and family members packed a standing-room-only facility to witness the deployment ceremony and say goodbye to their loved ones, who will spend about six weeks at Fort Hood, Texas, before deploying for nine months in Afghanistan.
Kingsley, who will be making his first overseas deployment, spent much of the morning with his wife and three children, who came from their Austin, Texas, home for the ceremony. He took turns holding his two youngest children, 4-year-old daughter Parker and 18-month-old Logan, while also posing for photos with his oldest daughter, Victoria, 9, and wife, Jamie.
Saying goodbye to his family was the hardest part of the job, he said.
“It’s incredibly tough, especially knowing I have a 1-year-old and not being able to get him talking and all that stuff,” Kingsley said.
At the same time, he said, he understands that he has a job to do. He said he’s been in contact with soldiers from the unit the 756th will replace, and he knows where his soldiers will be stationed and the task that lies ahead.
It’s not the first time that the 756th has been called to duty, Sheridan said. The unit responded to provide aid in Haiti after the country was rocked by an earthquake in 2010, served following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that same year and also served in-state following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike.
The task that lies ahead in Afghanistan is just the latest job for the 756th, she said.
“When they return, they will know they played a significant role in upholding democracy, which is what makes our country the best in the world,” Sheridan said.