The NH Army National Guard, 237th Military Police Company is headed to Afghanistan
MANCHESTER - Jayda Collins, 3, ran as fast as she could through the gymnasium at Southern New Hampshire University Sunday to find her father, Jason Collins, and shower him with kisses one more time.
Jason Collins of Rochester is a member of the New Hampshire Army National Guard, 237th Military Police Company. As one of the "Regulators," he will be going to the Khost Province in Afghanistan to help train Afghan police and combat terrorist insurgents.
"I take care of bad guys," he said.
The 110 soldiers in the 237th were honored Sunday with a farewell ceremony at the university attended by Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, who wished them well in their year-long deployment.
Capt. Samuel Weber will be leading the 237th.
"These are amazing soldiers," he said. "The quality of soldiers in this company would be the envy of any commander."
The 237th got the most up-to-date equipment and training possible before the deployment, he said. The mission will be to train the Afghan police and protect the fledgling democratic government, he said.
"So it will never again be a safe haven to terrorists," he said.
This is not Weber's first deployment, he served in Iraq in 2006, and is excited by the opportunity to go again.
Specialist Brenna Dorr, a police officer in Adams, Mass., has been in the Guard for five years; this is her first mission overseas.
"My thoughts are positive," she said. "I volunteered for this deployment."
Of the 110 soldiers in the 237th, 77 are deploying for the first time. Others are on their second and third deployment. Staff Sgt. William Roth is now going on his fifth deployment. They will all spend the next two months training in Texas.
Ayotte thanked the soldiers for their bravery and commitment to the nation.
"We are very blessed in this country," said Ayotte. "And we are only safe and free because of the sacrifice of the men and women in uniform."
Ayotte's husband, Joe Daley, served a mission in Iraq as a member of the Air National Guard. That experience drove home the difficulties military families face when a spouse or loved one is deployed, she said.
"We can never thank you enough for the sacrifices you are making," she told family members.
Kuster, whose father became a prisoner of war after being shot down during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, said she was honored to be at the bittersweet ceremony.
"We're grateful to be able to honor your service, but mindful that it comes at a cost," she said.
Hassan said the men and women of the 237th remind her of her father, also a World War II veteran who served in the Battle of the Bulge,
"You make your quiet strength felt without fanfare," she said.
Brothers, Sgt. Daniel Musso and Sgt. David Musso, are headed off to Afghanistan together. This is the second time the Musso brothers have served; they did a tour together in Iraq in 2007.
The brothers will not be allowed to go on the same missions together during their deployment, but will be able to see each other during their deployment.
Patti Morand of Manchester is saying goodbye to her husband, Jason, for a second time. She'll be home taking care of their 2-year-old son, Logan, relying on help from family.
"I have a great family," she said.
Hassan pledged to assist any family member who needs help during the deployment.
"Call my office, please, we will help you in any way possible," she said.