WEST FORT HOOD — Family and friends saw off more than 400 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade soldiers Sunday afternoon, kicking off the brigade’s nine-month deployment to Kosovo.

Along with National Guard soldiers, the unit will spend about a month in Germany for additional training before setting off for the southeastern European nation.

The 504th has been preparing for this deployment for a year, said Maj. James Battle, rear detachment brigade executive officer. “We’re very confident (about) mission success,” he said. The brigade will serve as third responders, supporting U.S. Army Europe and NATO forces in riot control.

The deployment will be a bit less lonely for Sgt. Keyon Martin, of the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company — his brother will be deploying with him.

“It’s cool,” Martin said. “It’ll be easier having family around.”

His wife, TraShanta Martin, stood alongside him as he played with their 21-month-old son.

“The first deployment was hard, because I was pregnant and it was just me at Fort Bliss,” she said. This time, she feels better prepared. “It’ll be hard with (my son) not knowing what is going on, but we’ll be Skyping every day and sending packages.”

Capt. Kevin Sandell, 11th Public Affairs Detachment, cradled his 3-week-old son, Callen, prior to saying his goodbyes.

“The hardest part is knowing she’s well taken care of,” he said of his wife, Amy Sandell, who will juggle raising their newborn along with 2-year-old son, Ethan.

Amy Sandell will focus on ensuring her son stays connected with dad throughout the separation. Her husband watched Ethan’s birth on Skype during his last deployment.

“We have daddy dolls and books recorded,” she said. They will Skype as often as possible, along with marking off the days on a calendar until their reunion.

Still, Kevin Sandell was glad to be heading to Kosovo on a peacekeeping mission.

“This is totally different,” he said, compared to his previous two deployments to Afghanistan. “It’s more low key, with minimal threat of enemy fire.”

The Sandells are planning a trip to Disney World upon the soldiers’ return.

The Martin family has a special plan for a reunion post-deployment as well.

“I’m going to have his whole family come in from Alabama,” TraShanta Martin said, to welcome the brothers home.

Contact Madison Lozano​ at mlozano@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7552.

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