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HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii National Guard unit will be deploying to Afghanistan — the first of about 1,000 guardsmen from the state that will be sent to the Middle East and Europe over the next year.

About 80 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment bid farewell to family and friends in a hangar at the Kalaeloa Airport Friday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported .

The unit that operates CH-47F Chinook helicopters will finish training in Texas then deploy to Afghanistan for about nine months, officials said.

Among the deploying soldiers was Chief Warrant Officer Clyde Pelekai Jr. The 47-year-old pilot, who has served on previous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be on the same deployment as his son, Spc. Clyde Pelekai III.

“Pretty exciting having family — maybe not right there in the same vicinity — but we’re deploying together, going through the same hardships and good times as well,” the elder Pelekai said.

The unit has a combination of new and seasoned soldiers who will take part in missions to transport troops and equipment.

Spc. Nicholas Pa, 19, will be going on his first deployment. The aircraft mechanic said he doesn’t know what to expect, but he thinks it will be positive experience.

Col. Neal Mitsuyoshi, head of the 103rd Troop Command, said one of his toughest duties is to take these soldiers away from their families and put them into harm’s way. But these soldiers have prepared for it and they love what they do, he said.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser,