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Montana National Guard unit gears up for deployment

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Jan 07 2014 06:23:13 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 07 2014 06:38:16 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Friends, family and members of the community gathered in Belgrade today to see off troops in Montana National Guard's 143rd Military Police Company.

The 35 servicemen and women will be charged with keeping the peace and providing security for a operating base in Afghanistan for one year.

Staff Sergeant Zach Routzahn waited with his wife Sami and 2-year-old son Nolan for the deployment ceremony to begin.

"I'm proud to be part of the 143rd. We were pretty much the first unit to deploy out of the state and, if everything goes as planned, we might be the last ones," he told us.

Routzahn tells us his unit deployed to Iraq in 2002 and again in 2008, but never to Afghanistan.

"I'm kind of excited about that. It's a whole different country, so similar to the job we did last time, so it's nothing new and I'm kind of looking forward to it. A little apprehensive, as well," Routzahn says.

For his wife Sami, it's nothing new. She says Routzahn has been gone for a lot of training this year and explains she and her son have a solid routine.

"I stay busy. I have a lot of friends and I work still. I'm a nurse and I work at our local hospital," says Sami.

Lt. Governor John Walsh spoke at the deployment ceremony. He tells us these are citizen soldiers who volunteer to serve in the Montana Army National Guard. Walsh explains he understands the sacrifice these troops and their families are making.

"I have a son who's a helicopter pilot in the Montana Army National Guard and he's deployed two times, so I know what it's like from a soldier leaving my family at home and I also know what it's like to send a family member overseas," explains Walsh.

It's why he says the success of a unit depends largely on the support of family and community members.

As for Routzahn: "It's going to be hard but it's something that we do. It's something I enjoy doing and my wife understands that, thankfully," he explains.

The company leaves Wednesday morning just after 7 a.m. for Fort Dix, New Jersey. There, they'll undergo more training before heading to Afghanistan.

According to Montana National Guard Public Affairs Officer Major Tim Crowe, this is the most deployments for any single unit in the state's history for Operation Enduring Freedom.