SYCAMORE - Soldiers in the 1-148th Infantry Unit of Charlie Company have heavy lifting to do, and there is nothing easy about their mission, an Army official said.
Ohio Army National Guard soldiers are being deployed to Afghanistan to provide military presence in communities and help support the country's government.
"I know that you're ready. ... I know you're supported by your families," said Col. John Harris, assistant adjutant general of Ohio.
Patriotic music played and U.S. flags were prevalent as the community bid farewell to nearly 120 members of the Tiffin-based 1-148th Infantry Unit in Mohawk High School's gymnasium Saturday morning.
Capt. Aaron Combs, the group's commander, said the soldiers' training will push them to the limits of their skills and endurance, and he expects them to do the best job they can.
"Our team and squad leaders are extremely experienced," he said.
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, presented Combs a U.S. flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol and a proclamation. He said the soldiers are on a mission, and he expressed appreciation for citizen-soldiers.
"You're not required to do this. ... I can't thank you enough," he said.
Among those attending Saturday's ceremony was Maj. Brett Graham, a member of 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and a science teacher at Mohawk. He is in the headquarters unit of Charlie Company and also is to be deployed.
Erik Baker, intervention specialist, athletic director and football coach at Mohawk, and Mohawk's senior football players are among a group that is to travel to Columbus today to attend Graham's call-to-duty ceremony.
"They wouldn't miss it," Baker said.
Graham and Baker collaborated to organize Operation Buckeye Guard to show support for Ohio Army National Guard soldiers, and Baker said he thinks their friendship is probably why the project took off so quickly.
It involves football teams adopting units and wearing patches on their football helmets, and five colleges and more than 350 high schools are participating.
Baker said students look up to Graham. He mentors and keeps track of students who go to college, helps students select their occupational specialties and tutors them on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
"(He's a) very complete person," Baker said.
Baker said 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is lucky to have Graham.
"He's always done a great job. ... We're proud of him," he said.