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120th Security Forces Squadron supports Operation Enduring Freedom

Deploying 120th Security Forces Squadron member Senior Airman Amanda Schmidt brings her bags into the Great Falls International Airport on Dec. 23, 2012.  National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson.

Deploying 120th Security Forces Squadron member Senior Airman Amanda Schmidt brings her bags into the Great Falls International Airport on Dec. 23, 2012. National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson.

120th Security Forces Squadron supports Operation Enduring Freedom

120th Security Forces Squadron supports Operation Enduring Freedom

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- 17 members of the 120th Security Forces Squadron assembled in their classroom for the last home station roll call of the year in Great Falls, Mont. on Dec. 23.

The Airmen boarded a civilian airliner and flew to Texas to join up with their fellow Security Forces members who completed advanced combat training. From there, the combined group of Montana Guardsmen would depart for a 179 day deployment to a forward location in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Many of the experienced NCOs had deployed multiple times in the past, but for some of the younger Airmen, this would be their first deployment. Regardless of their experience level, the security professionals were all excited to take part in this important mission.

"I feel very confident and very proud to have this chance to do it (deploy). I think it's going to be a great experience," said Airman 1st Class Courtney Rath.

"I'm very proud to step up for this mission and for this deployment. I've got a long family history in the Air National Guard and I'm very proud to serve and do my job and do what this country's called us to do," said Staff Sgt. Shane Dean.

The fact that the deployment occurred during the holiday season made it hard for Guardsmen who left their families behind. Celebrations and observances were planned to be held early for children to enjoy the company of their parents.

"We celebrated Christmas early," said Dean. "It works out pretty good for me. I've got a young daughter that's not quite two yet, so she's still getting into the Christmas idea. So it's a little easier for me to celebrate Christmas early than it is for some of the other families that have older children," he said.

"For Christmas, on Sunday we opened up presents, had a nice dinner and had a get together with everybody. It was really good," said Senior Airman Sean Engum.

The Montana Air National Guard has always been known as a family organization and considers its members to be a part of their "family". Many of the security professionals felt secure in the knowledge they would be in the company of this second family made up of friends and coworkers that would be watching each other's backs during the six-month deployment.

"It's definitely an extended family," said Engum. "I spent the last six months solely with these guys, got to know everybody's ins and outs, what people don't like, what people do like and it has drawn us very close," he said.

The deploying Security Forces members are confident that their experienced personnel and specialized training will help them successfully complete the mission and showcase the value of the Air National Guard.

"I think the importance of this mission and the importance for our Airmen is to continually promote and show we are a vital part of the total force. Some people may be unfamiliar with the Guard and they can point to this and see we integrated directly with the active duty, we did everything that the active duty did, and at the tail end of this when we come off the plane we'll go back to our civilian roles in the community," said Master Sgt. Ed McNamee.

The Airmen plan on keeping in touch with their families while they are deployed using modern social media applications and the traditional hand writing of letters to be sent home through the mail.

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