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FORT MCCOY, Wis. - More than 160 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers of the 829th Engineer Company trained here in March in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

The company conducted their annual training, which mainly consisted of warrior tasks and drills, to prepare themselves for their pre-mobilization training at Fort Bliss, Texas, explained Capt. Kyle Gruber, commander of the 829th Engineer Company.

Gruber also stated that after the unit's pre-mobilization is complete, it will move out to Afghanistan, where the Soldiers will begin their mission of tearing down old buildings and recovering unused equipment from past deployments.

"We will be demilitarizing buildings, stopping enemy forces from using that material, and saving the taxpayer's money," Gruber said while support staff worked beside him plotting maps and the day's events. "So far I am overwhelmingly pleased with the noncommissioned officers, and all the Soldiers have been meeting or exceeding standards."

First Sgt. Brian Kelly explained that this training was essential for the Soldiers to be able to keep up with all skill sets, and that the Soldiers were handling the training very well. He also noted that for some Soldiers, this would not be their first deployment to Afghanistan.

"Some of these Soldiers were the first ones in, and now they're possibly going to be the last ones out," Kelly said. "Soldiers take pride in putting things together. I was a part of that, and it feels great."

One of those soldiers is Sgt. 1st Class Lucas Kramer, who has served with the 829th for more than 15 years. This next deployment will be his fifth.

"It's exciting, to see how much everything will have changed," Kramer stated while members of his unit fired their weapons in the background. "There were only 12 of us at first, and we basically helped to build up Kandahar. We built roads, schools, plumbing, just about anything you would need to make life a little better."

Kelly also explained that out of those deploying this time around, only around half of the members of the unit have ever deployed before.

Spc. Hayden Mulroney is one of the Soldiers deploying for the first time. He said that while he was sad that he was leaving his wife, he trusted everyone he was with and couldn't wait for the great experience that was ahead.


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