Story by:  Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
 
 Posted: July 19, 2015

Sgt. Elizabeth Peña Warrant Officer Audrey M. Foushee speaks during the deployment ceremony for the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, hosted by the Houston Astros, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, July 18, 2015. This marks the first time that the Texas National Guard has been supported by a Major League Association for a mobilization event. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
Warrant Officer Audrey M. Foushee speaks during the deployment ceremony for the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, hosted by the Houston Astros, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, July 18, 2015. This marks the first time that the Texas National Guard has been supported by a Major League Association for a mobilization event. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

HOUSTON — Friends and family of the Texas National Guard’s 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion gathered at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, July 18, 2015, to give their final blessings as the unit prepares to depart for Kuwait and surrounding areas for a nine-month deployment. The farewell ceremony, hosted by the Houston Astros, took place just before game two of their Lone Star Series against the Texas Rangers.

“This is the first time the Texas National Guard has been sponsored by a Major League association,” said Lt. Col. Tanya Trout, commander of the 136th ESB. “We have over a third of our Soldiers that have never been deployed before, so to be able to send them off like this is tremendous.”

The 136th ESB is a Houston-based signal battalion that belongs to Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), headquartered in Round Rock, Texas. During their deployment, the unit will be responsible for providing voice and network capabilities to other military assets across seven countries, including Kuwait, Jordan, The United Arab Eremites, and Egypt. 

The battalion is made up of approximately 300 Soldiers from the Texas and Alabama National Guards and will fall under the regular Army’s 160th Strategic Signal Brigade while overseas.

The ceremony featured the casing of the battalion colors, an Army tradition that is used to demonstrate an organization moving to a new theater of operations. The colors, which represent the 136th ESB’s mission and lineage, are carried wherever the unit goes and are kept safe by the senior enlisted member. In this case, that responsibility falls to the battalion command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Collins. 

Although this is the first deployment for the 136th ESB, many of the Soldiers are experienced combat veterans. 

“My biggest challenge is being back and forth from my son,” said Sgt. Darin Goodwin of C Company, 136th ESB. “He’s about a year old so he is kind of understanding but kind of upset that daddy keeps leaving and coming back. My wife is military so we have a good understanding of everything. This is what I love. It’s what we do.”

The unit recently completed training at Camp Swift, Texas, where they refreshed their basic Soldier fundamentals including land navigation, combat drills, and convoy operations. 

“Over the last few weeks when we did the pre-mobilization training we really got to bond on a more day to day, 24/7 basis, and I’m inspired by all of them,” said Trout. “Each and every individual sacrifice they make, how quick to learn and how motivated as you can see today.”

Next is the last stage of their training at Fort Hood, Texas, which focuses on their signal mission and ensures they have the latest equipment and skills for the modern battlefield. 

“We are always ready to be on the move, it’s a part of our training,” said Spc. Raven Lewis, a logistics coordinator for the 136th ESB. “We make sure that we remain proactive in case we have to go support someone else.”

This ceremony gives Soldiers one last opportunity to give their give their loved ones final hugs and kisses before stepping on the plane for the middle east.

“It’s pretty cool to have the support from back home,” said Lewis. “Not only do you have your family with you but you have your support from people that live in the general area that want to see you return safely with the troops.”