BILLINGS — The family of soldiers in the Montana National Guard 1063rd Maintenance Company said goodbye to their loved ones in Billings on Saturday before a 400-day deployment to Southwest Asia.
The 147 soldiers in the 1063rd are primarily from Montana and headquartered in Billings with a detachment that drills in Dillon. The company will travel on Sunday to Fort Hood, Texas for three weeks to complete final training.
Then the 1063rd is off to Southwest Asia assist with Operation Spartan Shield.
“We have people that are going to be working on vehicles and weapons and radios all sorts of military equipment. We’re going to ensure that all of that stuff is in good condition and that it is ready for the people that need to use it," said Capt. Jacob Pancheau, 29, of Billings.
This is the first time the company has been deployed overseas since it was first stood up in 2011, Pancheau said.
"Some of these soldiers individually have deployed with other units, but as a company this will be our first deployment," Pancheau said.
This will also be the first overseas deployment for Pancheau. He said he'll miss his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, but technology makes it easier for families and soldiers to connect.
“Obviously, our priority is to do the mission. That’s kind of what we sign up for and our families realize that. And we realize that at the end of the day, we need to make sure that we’re doing what our country asks of us. That being said, we’re very fortunate with technology I think that soldiers will be able to communicate with their family members and have an opportunity to talk to them and see how they are doing. Very, very blessed and fortunate to be in that kind of area," Pancheau said.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte spoke at the departure ceremony, located at the Billings Armed Forces Reserve Center.
He mentioned how in the past year, 1063rd members have been called to assist at the Presidential Inauguration, and some were deployed to Montana's hospitals that were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Some even became firefighters over the course of the summer, Gianforte said.
“On behalf of a very grateful state and nation, I want to thank you for always stepping up to serve your neighbors. Whether it’s here at home or overseas, and you’ve done that this last year. You’ve stepped up time and time again when we’ve had a need," Gianforte said.
Giaiforte thanked the soldiers and their families for their sacrifice.
"We have a debt we can’t fully repay each and every one of you. And all of that would not be possible without your families who are here today with us. Behind each one of our brave service men and women is an equally brave and supportive family that allows our soldiers to go off and serve. Thank you to all the family that are here today," Gianforte said.
Normally, the soldiers would start their journey directly after the departure ceremony. The extra evening is more time for the 1063rd to spend with their families.
“I’m looking forward to spending time with family for the last night and saying my goodbyes in the morning," said Sgt. Dailyn Finnicum, 27, of Sindey.
Finnicum said she's normally stationed full-time at a field maintenance shop in Culbertson, helping fix all of the military equipment used in the National Guard.
Finnicum's grandparents live in Billings and her mother, father and sister live in Sidney. They all made the trip to see Finnicum off.
“I’m really going to miss my friends and my family and especially my dog Paco," Finnicum said.
Sunday will mark Finnicum's 10th year in the military. While she said she's a bit nervous to go overseas for the first time, she's excited for the experience.
“Yah, absolutely. It’s just kind of the fear of the unknown, but I think it will all come together in the end and I’m looking forward to it, overall," Finnicum said.