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Saturday, October 5, 2019

165 local soldiers say goodbye to friends and family before heading to Ukraine.

The soldiers board their plane to Fort Bliss, Texas where they will train for a few weeks and then head to Ukraine.
The soldiers come from all over Wisconsin and are based in the headquarters of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat team.

The Wisconsin National Guard is travelling to continue a project that has been in the works for four years.

"This is a mission that’s been going on since 2015 and the Wisconsin National Guard is going over to continue this mission," said Captain Adam Puhl of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "We’re supporting and training and advising the Ukrainian armed forces."

The soldiers will be helping the Ukrainian army train to better integrate with NATO nations.

The team will be gone for at least nine months and know they will miss special moments with their families.

"I’m my son's den leader, I’m his tee ball coach, I'm an EMT with the McFarland fire department, so its going to be kind of hard to stay away from all that," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nathan Weier.

Members of the military said today is a day filled with a variety of emotions.. excitement, sadness, fear and laughter.

Soldiers say as hard as it is to be the ones leaving, that it's even harder for the ones they’re leave behind.

"It’s a lot harder on my spouse back home and for my daughter because we leave behind a lot of tasks that normally we help with that they have to try and do by themselves now," said First Sgt. Walter Smithson.

The team will be able to communicate back home through phone apps, calls, and letters.

For one soldier, today brought an extra element of celebration.

"Today’s a little bit unique, it's my 38th birthday, so... the army gave me a good birthday present," Weier said.

While soldiers hate saying goodbye to their loved ones for long periods of time, they know that their work is important.

"I’ve been doing this for 15 years now," Puhl said. "I've had the opportunity to help soldiers, to help civilians, to deploy to Iraq in the past to help go on the mobilization to support Florida during hurricane Irma efforts. It’s a great sense of pride and strength."

The 165 soldiers are on their way to Fort Bliss, Texas for a few weeks of training and then will be deployed to Ukraine.