By Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Florida National Guard
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., (5/26/09) - The National Guard has always been ready when called upon for either state or federal missions, Florida Gov.
Charlie Crist told nearly 200 of the state's Soldiers during a departure ceremony today.
"The men and women of the Florida National Guard are the best of the best," said the state's commander in chief, adding that the Soldiers of the 779th Engineer Battalion are continuing a legacy of "patriotic, selfless service."
Crist, along with Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, the adjutant general of Florida, paid tribute to Soldiers before the battalion departs in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
â€œOur nation has the most capable and courageous military on the face of the planet,â€ he said.
â€œThe men and women of our military make sacrifices to serve us, spend time away from family and loved ones, (and) answer the call to service to put themselves in harmâ€™s way when needed.
You are truly heroes â€“ extraordinary heroes â€“ and I thank you for that.â€
Hundreds of friends, family, and civilian and military dignitaries filled the courtyard around the assembled Soldiers, cheering for the Tallahassee-based unit. After the ceremony the Soldiers left for Fort McCoy, Wis., for additional training before departing to Southwest Asia.
Commander of the 779th Engineer Battalion Lt. Col. Dwayne Jarriel also addressed his unit before their departure, letting them know their military leaders were confident in the Soldiersâ€™ training and professionalism.
â€œWe have total confidence in your ability as Soldiers to do our mission in a combat zone and come back successfully to our family and friends,â€ Jarriel said.
Soldiers taking part in the deployment predominantly live in Tallahassee, Lake City, Middleburg, Perry, Starke, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Gainesville and other north Florida cities.