100 Ariz. Army National Guard soldiers to deploy to Afghanistan

100 Ariz. Army National Guard soldiers to deploy to Afghanistan

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More than 500 Arizona Army and Air National Guard members are still serving on active duty in Afghanistan and the Middle East. On Sunday, 100 more soldiers prepared to join them.
Their mission, according to the Army National Guard, is a dangerous one. It's a mission these soldiers have been preparing for quite some time, even though many are heading to war for the first time.

100 members of the 819th engineer company of the Arizona Army National Guard reported for duty.

"I'm excited and a little anxious this, is my first deployment," said Romel Clariza, the unit's senior combat medic.  

Clariza's job will be to watch over the soldiers as they perform their mission.

It's a dangerous job according to spokesperson Sgt. Ed Blaban.

"Combat engineers are the guys that basically go out and clear the roads and make sure the convoy routes are safe. They'll provide security and dismantle unexploded ordinance and look for IEDs," said Blaban.  

"We prepared and made ready to deploy," said Andrew Chavez, Army National Guard specialist.

"The government has spent enough money to on the right equipment to make sure the soldiers are safe. As bad as it may sound, we're in very protective equipment so it's very safe. The ratio for the job is very high for a comeback ratio," said First Lt. George Lopez.

Soldiers like Lopez are confident in the training they've received.

But, the hugs and support they felt Sunday only reinforces how hard they will work to make it back home safe to their loved ones.

"My emotions are everywhere. I've had family members overseas but never my husband, so it's going to be a hard, long year," said Maria Lopez, George Lopez' wife.

The soldiers deploy for Fort Bliss, Texas Monday for further training before heading to Afghanistan.

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