More than 100 members of the Army National Guard’s 2123rd Transportation Company unit, based in Richmond, will leave Fort Dix, N.J., later this month for a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan. Berea native Lt. Gus LaFontaine said he is proud of the men and women in his unit who have been training since January for this deployment. Soldiers in the unit completed training earlier this year at the Wendell Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, and then traveled to Fort Dix. “The reason I reached out (to the media) is to recognize them,” he said “We have a large number of soldiers who have worked extremely hard in preparation for this. They’ve worked in conditions that were less than favorable, and generally kept a great attitude. Now, everybody is anxious to take that hard work and apply it.” LaFontaine, 29, is a graduate of Madison Southern High School and a 2007 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University. All members of the 2123rd are proud to serve their country, LaFontaine said. “Our fathers and grandfathers, they’ve all performed this great act of service, now it’s our generations’ turn,” he said. “That feeling of pride will only grow. We always receive well wishes from people, and those thoughts and prayers are always touching. We’ve received a lot of support back home, and we’re thankful for the support we already have.” The group toured Ground Zero in New York on Tuesday, and LaFontaine referred to it as “...a sobering, yet wonderful experience,” he said. The event was a part of the group’s pre-deployment training, he said. This will be the second tour of duty for Staff Sgt. Chris Eden of Richmond, who is an officer for the Lexington Police Department and a 1995 graduate of Madison Southern High School. “Hearing the firefighter share his experiences reminded me of when I was an active duty soldier stationed in South Korea during 9/11,” Eden said after hearing the recollection of a firefighter’s rescue efforts on Sept. 11. “Because I was so far away, I didn’t realize the reality of 9/11 at first. Experiences like today help that reality to continue to set in.” Staff Sgt. Justin Rhodus also is embarking on his second tour of duty to Afghanistan. He is a former Richmond resident and a 1999 Madison Central High School graduate. Rhodus said the Ground Zero tour was a reminder as to why he enlisted in the military. “I joined the Army shortly after 9/11,” he said. “I joined because I felt a great need to serve my country at that time. Today’s experiences reaffirm to me that my decision to serve was the right thing to do.” A farewell ceremony was conducted in January for members of the 2123rd at Madison Central High School, and was attended by friends and family of the soldiers, along with deputy adjutant Gen. Mike Richie and Adam Edelen, chief of staff to Gov. Steve Beshear. The 2123rd Transportation Company provides logistical support to other military units by providing transportation and moving supplies. This mission to Afghanistan will “provide transportation support for combat operations throughout the Afghan theater of operations,” according to the National Guard. The unit was deployed to Iraq in 2003 to move combat units in and out of Iraq from a base in Kuwait, and the unit served in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia in 1990 and 1991. Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 624-6608.

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