Utah National Guard soldiers leave for Afghanistan

DRAPER, Utah — About 15 Utah families are saying goodbye to their loved ones Thursday as they deploy to Afghanistan.

Soldiers from Utah Guard's 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion will leave Utah Guard Headquarters to Fort Hood, Texas, then to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

"Older people tell me it’s going to be a great experience that I’m going to have the chance to use my training that I’ve been using for the last five years, so it’s kind of a chance for me to use those skills, so I’m really looking forward to it," said Esther Aponte, who is being deployed for her first time.

At Fort Bragg, the soldiers will receive several weeks of training to process and analyze information collected on Afghanistan "to enable U.S. forces to gain a better understanding of the battlefield and fight enemy insurgents," a statement from Utah National Guard said.

The soldiers will then head overseas for a planned 12-month deployment for Operation Freedom Sentinel.

“We are very proud of our service members who provide invaluable technical skills to all those in the region,” said Lt. Col. Steven Fairbourn, public affairs officer for the Utah Guard. “We are thankful for their service and mindful of the sacrifice of these members and their families for our nation’s defense.”