HELENA, MT –
The gym was packed with hundreds of grandparents, loved ones with cameras, and children dressed in red, white and blue clothing. They had gathered in the Fort William Henry Harrison Reserve Center gymnasium to say farewell to the Soldiers of the 652nd Regional Support Group, an Army Reserve unit from Helena, Montana, tasked with a historic mission.
The ceremony was held September 7 to case the 652nd’s colors in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Poland where they would be responsible for overseeing the operations of several bases of allied Soldiers.
“The Regional Support Group is responsible for base camp support – life sustainment and quality of life for Soldiers,” Col. Erica Herzog, Commander, 652nd Regional Support Group, explained.
“So essentially that’s what we’re doing over in Poland; we’re providing life sustainment such as supply, transportation, laundry services, dining facilities, gym support – all of the quality of life aspects to improve Soldiers lives on base camps.”
The mission is particularly significant because it will mark the first time a Regional Support Group has gone to Poland to support base camp operations, Herzog said. The 652nd will be responsible for maintaining more than 10 base camps located throughout Poland.
While this is the sixth deployment for Herzog, a little over a year ago, Pvt. Emory Faber, was finishing high school. Now, the 19-year-old military police officer, from Helena is preparing to leave the United States for the first time on a deployment expected to span 9-months to a year.
“I’m a little nervous but mostly excited,” Faber said. “It’s going to be a great experience. Especially going somewhere as far as that – I normally wouldn’t be able to do that.”
While Faber and several of his fellow Soldiers expressed excitement about the year to come, it was a bittersweet occasion for many family members saying goodbye to the Soldiers.
Alex Lamb, who was at the ceremony with her 13-month-old daughter Brayleigh, has experienced the difficulty of having a deployed spouse before. This deployment will be the second for her husband, Sgt. Gallatin Lamb.
Alex said during her husband’s last deployment there were times she felt as though she was on her own. Alex decided to lead the 652nd’s Family Readiness Group, which is a support network for the unit’s family members.
“We help assist families, whether overseas or here,” Lamb said. During drill weekends, Lamb and other FRG volunteers provide snacks and coffee for Soldiers, as well as sell unit memorabilia like T-shirts.
Sky Duffner, who retired from the 652nd a few months ago after 24 years of service, joined the FRG to support her fellow Soldiers who are still serving.
“I’ve learned that the only way you can make your military life work is if you have the support of your friends and family and the people who believe in you. The FRG is another support group that can help Soldiers stay strong while they’re sacrificing for their country.”
The gym full of family members, community members and friends of the 652nd showed that even though they will be thousands of miles away, the Soldiers will have an abundance of support back in Montana.