About 32 members of the Army National Guard based in Danbury shipped out to Fort Dix Monday in preparation for deployment to the Horn of Africa. The soldiers don't know exactly where or when they are going, but their first stop is 30 days of training in New Jersey.
"They don't tell us exactly how long," said Paul Holko, 29, of Danbury, a 2001 Brookfield High School graduate. Holko married two months ago, and is without children. "We're hoping to deploy for less than a year."
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who attended the departure from Danbury Monday, told the soldiers that the Horn of Africa is a vital national security issue for the United States today.
The 411th works as liaison between various branches of the military, and it works on helping the military decide what service projects and construction projects it should undertake overseas. It works to help choose those projects, such as which school or which road to build.
Holko owns a home remodeling business, Holko Renovations, so he's a bit worried about things he's leaving behind, like quarterly tax payments and jobs that are now on hold for a year. "I have jobs lined up for when I come back."
Holko and other soldiers deploying Monday said one hard part is leaving behind loved ones with so much uncertainty.
Frank Nordby and his wife had a baby three weeks ago, Riley, who is certainly larger than Norby's hand, but not by much. Nordby is hoping to keep in touch via Skype and he's hoping the big events in Riley's life will be captured on videotape. "I'm not going to be there for her first year of life. That's a sacrifice."
"If we know our families are taken care of, we can do our jobs," said Samuel Ferrrucci, of Waterbury, who works as a shift supervisor with the West Hartford Police Department. "It's really difficult on our families."
"No matter how much you prepare, surprises happen," said Holko, and he mentioned that while Nordby was training to deploy to Africa, the heater in his house broke. That isn't anything someone can plan for in advance.
Robert Roig, first sergeant, said, "Who is going to look after them when they're deployed?"
Roig's child was five days old when he first deployed to the Middle East four years ago. He will be deployed again with the 411th in Africa.