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After preparing for their mission for over a year, more than 100 Vermont Army National Guard soldiers loaded a plane in South Burlington Wednesday morning.

The group is part of about 950 soldiers who will be deployed across the U.S. European, U.S. African, and U.S. Central commands during the first half of 2021. They are primarily from the 572nd Brigade Engineer Battalion and the 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry (Mountain), both part of 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain).

They will first go to Texas for 3-4 weeks of final training before getting sent to multiple locations across the U.S. Africa Command.

“I'm feeling pretty good. I'm pretty excited for the deployment coming up,” said Army specialist and Essex police officer Justin Lindor. “Usually, the first 30 days are the hardest. After that, it's kind of that you really get into the groove; so I'm looking forward to just getting straight into it.”

“She's pretty happy with us -- pretty proud,” said fellow officer Josh Lindor, Justin’s twin brother, about their mom. “She was sad when we first joined, but she knows that we're brave. Somebody's got to do it, and who better to do it than twin brothers who love it. We have our civilian jobs of protecting people; might as well just do it overseas as well.”

The hanger at the Guard’s Army Aviation Flight Facility looked similar to the terminal of any commercial airport. Some soldiers soaked up coffee and snacks while others turned their packs into pillows for a quick nap. Phones were used for calls and games, and small groups chatted among themselves in between thunderous roars of the F-35s that were landing and taking off just outside.

Soldiers seemed calm and focused -- ready to rely on their training to carry out their mission. When the order finally came, they fell into a single-file line, proceeded to march out of the hanger, and boarded the Sun Country passenger airliner which then took them into the clear blue skies and out of the Green Mountain State.

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