Master Sgt. William Smith, 55, knows his family will have a difficult time adjusting to his deployment to Kuwait as part of the Inherent Resolve mission in the Middle East, a mission that has evolved from the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Smith, who lives in Fresno, is one of 65 members of the Fresno-based Army National Guard’s 1106th Theater Aviation Sustainment Management Group that was honored during a deployment ceremony Saturday morning. The ceremony was the kickoff for the nine-month mission, which has been in the works for nearly two years.
“They’re going to be unhappy with me being gone, but this is what I do for my country,” Smith explained.
Pride, he says, is what drives him to serve abroad, as his family knows. “They understand the pride in what I do and the pride that I serve with,” Smith added.
They’re going to be unhappy with me being gone, but this is what I do for my country.
Master Sgt. William Smith
The ceremony, hosted in the California National Guard Aviation Classification and Repair Activity Depot next to Fresno Yosemite International Airport, gave Col. Lou Carmona a chance to explain the role that the unit will play in the Inherent Resolve mission.
Carmona, the group’s commander who also is director of Army and Aviation Safety for the California National Guard in Sacramento, said the unit has prepared for the worst, even though its mission is to help repair helicopters.
The group’s personnel have taken courses in cultural awareness, language and basic soldier skills.
“They have a long, long checklist, and it is important that everybody does all that,” Carmona said.
Theater Aviation Sustainment Management Group units have deployed 19 times to the Middle East since 2003, but it is the fourth time the 1106th has deployed, Carmona said.
Some members of the 1106th unit are deploying for the first time, others for their second, third or fourth. Only one raised his hand when Brig. Gen. Laura Yeager asked: “Who has been deployed five or six times?”
Smith, making his second deployment, knows his role. A previous deployment was with the Marine Corps. “Our main goal as a command is, we fix helicopters,” he said, adding that the unit provides the highest level of aviation maintenance for combat forces.
“They are extremely skilled with their hands,” Master Sgt. Paul Wade said.
Most of personnel in this deployment are from California, Wade said. Only a few will be scooped up from West Virginia and Mississippi units before heading to the Middle East.
99 percent Deploying personnel who are from California
The unit heads to Fort Hood, Texas, on Tuesday and will arrive in Kuwait by the end of the month to begin its mission.
Rachel Jackson traveled from Forest Falls in Southern California to say farewell to her deploying husband, 1st Lt. Blake Jackson. With their 4-month-old son, Russell, in Blake Jackson’s arms, Rachel Jackson acknowledged that she knew her husband would be deployed after he went on active duty again.
“I knew it was coming,” she said. “I’ll get through it.”
During the ceremony, Clovis Veterans Memorial District Chairman Tom Wright offered remarks to the deploying unit and their families, saying that the community celebrates veterans and service people.
Wright said, “Those of you who are deploying to duty, do so with the support of family.”