Even though troop deployments are drawing down, nearly 50 more Mississippians are heading to Afghanistan.

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Even Amid Drawbacks, Mississippi National Guard Still Plays Big Role

By Daniel Cherry | Published 04 Jan 2012 06:50pm | comments

Even as American armed forces draw back from deployments around the world, more Mississippi National Guard soldiers are heading out. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how a Jackson based unit hopes to save lives in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of friends and family came together to send off the 171st General Support Aviation Battalion. The men and women will be running medical evacuation missions in Afghanistan. It's Larry Huff's second deployment, both of which he volunteered for. Forces have left Iraq and are pulling out of Afghanistan, but Huff says as long as troops are on the ground, he wants to be there to help.

"I'm proud to be on the last leg of it. I hope we're almost through with this mission. The sooner we can get this mission done, the sooner our soldiers will quit getting hurt, and the happier we'll all be."

The 47 men and women of the 171st will complete a year in Afghanistan before returning to Mississippi. Christina Thomas of Madison took pictures of the send off with tears in her eyes. Her husband Sergeant Major Norman Thomas is gearing up for his second deployment.

"The first time didn't seem as hard as this one has been. Just getting ready and in general, knowing the term that's coming up. Last time we were only gone 9 months so it was a little bit different. This one will be a little bit longer. We'll make it through it thanks to family and friends and support."

Operation Enduring Freedom is in its 11th year and thousands of Mississippians have completed tours in Afghanistan. Adjutant General William Freeman says currently there are still more than 800 Mississippi National Guardsmen and women deployed around the world.

"Mississippians continue to deploy. They continue to do their part in the war on terror, and needless to say, Mississippians are very patriotic. They do their job, and I can't say enough about the men and women of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard in our great state continue to step up to the plate and say I want to serve my country."

Freeman says more Mississippi national guard units will deploy throughout 2012 .

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