A virtual send-off ceremony was held for a Brewer-based National Guard unit as it deployed to Africa this week.

Military send-offs are usually public events, attended by family and friends of the soldiers. There are public speakers and balloons, a lot of hugging and oceans of tears. But with the pandemic, it was decided to make this send-off a virtual affair.

Members of the B company, 3rd Battalion 172nd Infantry-Mountain unit have been planning for this mission for more than a year. The 2021 deployment was originally announced in 2019. The approximately 130 soldiers in B Company are part of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team - Mountain, which includes National Guard units from Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Colorado. The unit has initially been deployed to a stateside location, before being sent overseas. They are expected to be away for approximately 12 months.

B Company specializes in mountain warfare and trains in mountaineering techniques, to include rappelling, climbing, and cold weather survival. The unit was last deployed in 2009, when soldiers with the entire 86th Brigade Combat Team traveled to Afghanistan. In that mission, the unit was attached to the 101st Airborne Division.

You may watch the send-off video here.

Participating in the virtual send-off were: Major General Douglas Farnham, Maine Adjutant General; Brigadier General Diane Dunn, Maine Assistant Adjutant General; Brigadier General Dean Preston, Land Component Commander; Senator Susan Collins; Senator Angus King; Congresswoman Chellie Pingree; Congressman Jared Golden; and Governor Janet Mills.

We echo the sentiments expressed by everyone in this video when we say Godspeed, Soldiers. May you have a successful mission and return to your families when it's finished.

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