(WBIR - Knoxville) Early Saturday morning, 50 members of the 1-230th Air Cavalry Squadron flew from Knoxville to Fort Hood, TX where they will prepare for a one year deployment to Afghanistan. The group of soldiers will meet up with another group of 30 from Jackson, TN for a total of 80 military members from The Volunteer State.
Just before the Kiowa Warrior helicopters flew away carrying the soldiers, relatives and friends were able to say their goodbyes. The helicopter hanger at the air base stationed at the McGhee Tyson Airport was filled with people giving hugs and kisses.
Mable Wilson of Knoxville said, "I'm here to see my son, Landon Dave, off to Afghanistan. He's a Chief Warrant Officer for the United States Army and we're very proud of him."
Mike Neveu of Knoxville said, "My brother, Pete Neveu, is deploying to Afghanistan. We hang out with him pretty regularly with family being in town so we're going to miss seeing him throughout the year."
Among the group of soldiers was 1LT Mandie Morgan. She is one of only two female pilots to deploy with the unit.
1LTC Morgan said, "I'm excited and anxious. There is a lot of uncertainty, but this is my mission. We've trained to do it and I'm really excited to be able to have the opportunity to do it in a combat profile."
Major General Max Haston, Adjutant General for the TN National Guard, said a few words to the soldiers before they took off. Maj. Gen. Haston said, "These young men and women give up their daily lives, their jobs, to come and do this because they love it. They love their state and they love their country."
The deploying group soldiers consists of 36 pilots and 44 mechanics. Twenty-seven of the 80 are full-time employees of the TN Army National Guard. Fifty-five of them (62.5 percent) have previously deployed. The average age of those being deployed is 35 year old. The youngest is 21 years old. The oldest is 57 years old. Seven of the deploying soldiers are over 50 years old and a total of 11 will be over 50 years old by the end of 2014.