WORCESTER, Mass. – More than 40 Airmen of the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 212th Engineering Installation Squadron were recognized during a send-off ceremony at the Worcester Military Museum, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011.
The squadron is deploying to Afghanistan and will be providing a critical service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom
Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray along with several other state and local officials attended the ceremony. Patrick praised the squadron for its years of service, during which members have deployed every year since the 9-11 attacks.
"When you are not abroad, you are helping with fires and floods and installing lights at Little League fields," Patrick said.
Thanking the Airmen and their families Patrick ensured that the state would do everything possible to support them while they are overseas.
“Rest assured that while you're away, 6.5 million people here in Massachusetts have got your back,” Patrick said.
Murray, a former mayor of Worcester, stressed the importance of the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s role here at home in Massachusetts. “Today marks the largest overseas deployment commitment in the unit's history,” he added.
Murray noted that the squadron was the first military unit to respond after the Worcester tornado that struck the area in 1953. Additionally he noted that the 212th had a crucial role after the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage fire, which claimed the lives of six firefighters.
The squadron’s main mission overseas will be to install, design and upgrade communications infrastructure throughout the Afghanistan area of responsibility.
Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the senior ranking officer at the ceremony and Massachusetts Air National Guard Commander, stated:
“How fitting is saying farewell to a unit that keeps us connected…They are providing us with the ability…that 20 years ago would be unimaginable. Basically, we're connecting the dots. These are people who have not had communication or had freedom ever,” Rice said. “Your work is nothing less than a miracle; these people now have hope for the future because of what these men and women are going to do over there,” he said.
The 212th is no stranger to overseas deployments. The squadron has had at least one Airman deployed overseas every year since 2001 in support of Operating Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.