Soldiers in the 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, parted ways with their families at Soldiers Field on Sept. 13 to embark on the unit’s year-long deployment to Southwest Asia.

Despite being moved ahead of schedule seven months, the soldiers did a phenomenal job of getting themselves and their families ready for this mission, said Lt. Col. Maurice Barnett, battalion commander, at the unit’s color-casing ceremony.

Altogether, the battalion will have about 500 soldiers in the Central Command area of operations, and they will assume the task of “Guarding the Skies” in the region.

The battalion has trained for nearly 12 months to ensure mission success on the deployment. The soldiers spent time working with Patriot equipment during mission readiness exercises, and families were given guidance on how to deal with the absence of their soldiers.

For some soldiers, such as Pfc. Ronny Wallace, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist in the battalion, it is the first deployment of their careers.

“I’ve been wanting that patch for a long time ... ever since I got in,” Wallace said about receiving his first deployment patch.

Wallace, who enlisted less than a year ago, is both excited and nervous for the 12 months that lie ahead. However, it will be difficult to be away from his two children and wife, Ella, who is pregnant with their third child.

The family is hoping to have Wallace back for mid-tour leave around the due-date in January, but they will have to “wait and see” if the cards are dealt in their favor, the couple said.

“It’s been emotional, but it is good for (Ronny) to have this opportunity to excel in his career,” Ella Wallace said.

“This unit has been overcoming each obstacle, and this unit is ready,” said Col. Michael Morrissey, commander of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, at battalion’s color-casing ceremony.

Soldiers will join an element of their brigade’s headquarters, as well as sister battalion, 1st Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Brigade, in Southwest Asia.

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