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Arizona National Guardsmen prepare for yearlong Guantanamo Bay deployment

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Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014

By Darby Fitzgerald

PHOENIX –

HANNAH LAWRENCE/CRONKITE NEWS: Twenty families said goodbye today to members of the Arizona National Guard headed to Guantanamo Bay. Reporter Darby Fitzgerald was at the send-off ceremony and spoke with some of the soldiers about their deployment.

DARBY FITZGERALD/CRONKITE NEWS: Families and friends gathered today to send off these 20 Army National Guard soldiers.

CAPT. AMANDA HAMMOND/NATIONAL GUARD: We’re not going to have bullets flying at us like we would in Afghanistan or Iraq and we’re all grateful for that and I know our families are as well.

DARBY FITZGERALD/CRONKITE NEWS: The unit is deploying to Guantanamo Bay. Their job there is to ensure transparency supporting “Operation Enduring Freedom.” These men and women will be away from home for almost a year.

SPC. MONIQUE QUINONES/NATIONAL GUARD: We’ll stay in touch. The Army is really good about making sure we can keep talking to our families while we’re away.

DARBY FITZGERALD/CRONKITE NEWS: But it’s never easy to leave. Especially for Sgt. Reba Benally and her daughter who has special needs.┬áJulieanne will be staying with some of Sgt. Benally’s friends.

SGT. REBA BENALLY/NATIONAL GUARD: This was a decision… something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I think just for being the mother of a special-needs child it’s difficult to go for things that you wanted to go for, but I think we’re making the right decision.

DARBY FITZGERALD/CRONKITE NEWS: And for the other soldiers, they are looking forward to the experience.

SPC. MONIQUE QUINONES/NATIONAL GUARD: This is a new job for me and is for a lot of other people. They brought a lot of new people into the unit for this deployment, and so we all went through a long school. And that was an accomplishment.

DARBY FITZGERALD/CRONKITE NEWS: In Phoenix, Darby Fitzgerald, Cronkite News.

HANNAH LAWRENCE/CRONKITE NEWS: The unit leaves for Fort Dix, New Jersey, on the 26th of this month for more training and then they’ll travel to Cuba in October.