FORT HOOD — Family members gathered Wednesday to see off 25 finance soldiers before their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

The soldiers are part of the 13th Sustainment Command’s Alpha Detachment Company, 15th Finance Management Support Unit, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade.

“They’re a very capable, well-prepared unit,” said Lt. Col. Keith Kruelski, battalion commander. “They’ve met and exceeded all my expectations.”

Veronica Ashford held her 8-month-old son as her husband, Staff Sgt. Charles Ashford, prepared to re-enlist and then deploy immediately after. With four children under the age of 11, the family worked to prepare for the deployment this summer.

“We took family vacations to Schlitterbahn, Dallas and San Antonio,” Veronica Ashford said.

They enjoyed quality time, ensuring they ate as many meals together as possible. Though her husband spent a lot of time training, she is grateful for that training so he could come home safely, she said. Veronica Ashford had “daddy dolls” made in her husband’s image for each child to use for comfort once he left.

The soldiers will have split operations, with some of them deploying to Bagram Airfield and others heading to Forward Operating Base Shank, said Capt. Billy Bob Bridges, the unit commander.

“We’re excited to knock it out,” Bridges said.

Two soldiers feeling that difference most might be married couple Spc. April Suggs and Pfc. Jonathan Suggs. The couple both deployed with the unit, though they won’t be at the same post. April Suggs’ mother, father, brother and her 2-year-old son, Jayden, came to see them off.

“We’re looking forward to (the deployment),” Jonathan Suggs said. “It will make us stronger.”

Deployments never get easier, said Lindsey Bridges, the commander’s wife, but she acknowledged the benefits of technology. Her husband’s first deployment was in 2004, when she might expect an occasional phone call.

Now, she can talk to her husband nearly every day on Skype. With four kids at home, ranging in age from 3 to 8, it was easier for them to say their goodbyes at home. They did not attend the ceremony.

“Spouses are the true backbone of the U.S.,” Capt. Bridges said. “My wife is a superwoman.”

“We have a good support system with the Family Readiness Group,” Sharice Driggs said. Her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Driggs, serves as the detachment sergeant in the unit. Due to the small unit size, they are a tight-knit group, she said.

At the end of his ceremony speech, Kruelski assured the family members left behind that the battalion would “keep the home fires burning” until the soldiers return home.

Contact Madison Lozano​ at or 254-501-7552.

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