Six hundred and fifty New York Army National Guard Soldiers said goodbye to their families on Saturday, January 11 at three farewell ceremonies held in Rochester, the Albany suburb of Loudonville and on Staten Island.
Around 2,500 family members turned out to support their Soldiers at the farewell ceremonies which were held at the College of Staten Island, Siena College in Loudonville and the New York National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Rochester.
The Soldiers, who are assigned to the headquarters of the 42nd Infantry Division, which is based in Troy, will deploy to the United States Central Command area of operations later this year.
Organized during World War I with National Guard units from many states, the division is known as the Rainbow Division.
The division’s members have been training for more than a year to prepare for the deployment.
The division, commanded by Major General Steven Ferrari will assume command over Task Force Spartan.
“You are now part of the unique history of the 42nd Infantry Division, “Ferrari told the Soldiers at the Staten Island farewell event. “ You are part of a legacy that has seen this division deploy four times in the past 102 years.”
“The team we have assembled; I could not be more proud of,” he added.
Brig. Gen. Michel Natali, the Assistant Adjutant General, Army, who deployed with the division to Iraq in 2005, sounded a similar theme at the farewell event held at Siena College.
“You will write the next chapter of Rainbow Division history, Natali told the 200 Soldiers and 1200 family members who filled the Alumni Recreation Center there.
In Rochester, New York Lt. Governor Kathleen Hochul praised the parents of the men and women who were leaving for active duty.
“To the moms and dads who raised these individuals, who stepped out of the line of most Americans and are willing to put on the uniform and go into harm’s way, it’s because of the values that you taught them,” Hochul said.
Task Force Spartan is a multi-component organization, made up of active Army and National Guard units, rounded out by U.S. Army Reserve support units. The task force maintains U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia sufficient to strengthen defense relationships and build partner capacity.
Units in the task force support Operation Spartan Shield with capabilities such as aviation, logistics, and force protection and information management.
The division headquarters and the task force will facilitate theater security cooperation activities such as key leader engagements, joint exercises, conferences, and humanitarian assistance/disaster response planning.
Division Soldiers are training at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania and will then move to Fort Hood for additional pre-deployment training.
The 42nd Infantry Division’s last mobilization as a unit was in 2004-2005, when the division headquarters took command of 23,000 Soldiers operating north of Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At the event on Staten Island Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York told the 230 Soldiers in his audience that “your hard work preparing for this day is evident in the enthusiasm and professionalism.”
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Timothy Schultz, who deployed to Iraq with the division in 2005, attended the Siena farewell to say goodbye to his son Spec. Jordan Schultz. Also saying goodbye to his son was Col. Andrew Caliendo, who also deployed in 2005.
“It is really bittersweet,” he said. “I’m much older now and your perspective changes so much with family and kids.”
U.S. Representative Max Rose, a New York National Guard combat veteran attended the Staten Island Event, while U.S. Representative Paul Tonko was at the Siena College farewell ceremony.
Following the formal ceremonies at each location Soldiers boarded buses heading for Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.
The Soldiers will be gone for a year, spending about 10 months in the Central Command are which includes the Middle East.