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      Macon National Guard unit takes first steps toward Afghan deployment

      Missouri National Guardsmen of the Macon-based 1438th Engineer Company train on a bridging system at Fort Leonard Wood that is similar to the bridges they will be dismantling as part of their scheduled deployment to Afghanistan.

      The Macon-based 1438th Engineer Company of the Missouri Army National Guard has received mobilization orders for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.The 1438th is a bridging company. About 180 soldiers of the unit will deploy to southern Afghanistan this spring where they will spend 10 months dismantling the numerous temporary, modular bridges built by the U.S. and British militaries.Nicknamed the ??River Otters,?? the 1438th is a subordinate unit of the Cape Girardeau-based 1140th Engineer Battalion and maintains a detachment in Kirksville. The unit is commanded by Capt. McClellan H. Gaono, of Cape Girardeau, who is also the 1140th battalion training officer.

      ??It was inevitable that we would be deployed because the last time this unit deployed was 2005,?? Gaono said. ??So with that in mind we??ve actually been preparing for this deployment since I took command of the unit in January of 2011.??

      ??Our mission is part of the U.S. commitment to pull out of Afghanistan by next year,?? said Capt. McClellan H. Gaono-Taiese, the 1438th commander. ??The majority of our time will be spent tearing down these bridge sections and preparing them for shipment back to the United States.??

      In preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan, soldiers of the Macon-based 1438th Engineer Company of the Missouri Army National Guard took part in a Yellow Ribbon program event.The Guard??s Yellow Ribbon Program was designed to prepare soldiers and their families for overseas deployments and for the transition back to civilian life upon the return home. Pre-deployment program events help military families prepare for all aspects of deployment; financially, organizationally and emotionally.The 1438th will continue its pre-deployment mission training at Camp Crowder, near Neosho, before heading to Fort Dix, N.J. and then to Afghanistan. The unit is slated to return home in spring, 2014.