BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- In May, President Obama announced a plan to get most U.S. combat forces out of Afghanistan by 2015. But support troops are still going in, including a unit with the Maryland National Guard.
Mary Bubala reports they left Thursday.
More than 100 members of the Maryland Army National Guard's 111th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group are headed to Afghanistan for a one-year deployment.
The unit will provide technical assistance and engineering support to army aircraft in Afghanistan.
"It's always good to go do the mission that we trained for all the time, but it's tough leaving the family," said Staff Sgt. Ray Conger, Maryland Army National Guard.
Many families have been through this deployment ceremony before.
"Hug them, love them, keep in touch with them, cherish them," said Commander Linda Singh, Maryland Army National Guard.
They say it doesn't get easier.
"It's pretty tough," one woman said.
The unit heads to Afghanistan as many combat troops are leaving as part of President Obama's withdrawal plan. Nearly 33,000 soldiers currently in Afghanistan are being reduced to 9,800 by the start of next year. That number will be cut in half by the end of 2015.
The country is still struggling with violence. The Taliban continues attacks against Afghan security forces.
National Guard members leaving Thursday know that even in a support role, they are still headed to a war zone.
"Right now, I know everyone is feeling a lot of emotions and we're all going to have to lean on each other when we go overseas," said 2nd Lt. Ashley Meister, Maryland Army National Guard.
Troops will also help ready equipment to bring home during their year deployment.
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