Augusta mother of three and Maine Army National Guard wife Michelle Ouellette couldn’t be prouder of the man she married — even if his multiple oversea deployments have brought different challenges for her family.
Ouellette was surrounded by her children while her husband, Col. Bryan Ouellette, commander of the 120th Regional Support Group said goodbye to visiting family, friends, local and state dignitaries and other service members at the unit’s send-off Friday at Hampden Academy.
“Every time he’s gone something different breaks” at home, she said with a knowing smile on her face. “Is is easier? Yes and no. It’s a familiar routine when he leaves, but it’s different every time.”
Thirty-five members of the 120th are heading to Afghanistan, after a period of training at Fort Hood, Texas. Two-thirds of the 35 soldiers have deployed before.
The soldiers will manage facilities, provide administrative and logistical support for troop services and provide security during their year-long deployment.
Master Sgt. Harold Whitten of Enfield, the unit’s readiness noncommissioned officer, played with his 10-month-old grandson, Landon Nickerson, during the entire ceremony. He said he was getting in all the one-on-one time with the child that he could before he had to leave.
Whitten is also on his third deployment. He said he joined the military “because everyone else in the family did. My father was in, my grandfather was in, uncles were in.”
He went to Bosnia in 1997 and Iraq in 2003. His brother, Maj. Jeffrey Whitten, who works at the Army’s Regional Training Institute in Bangor, sat behind him in support.
Maj. Megan Colleen Swanger, an engineer plans officer, is leaving on her second deployment. She went to Iraq as an active duty member of the 10th Mountain Division in 2009. Her parents, her best friend and boyfriend and both sets of their parents were at the ceremony in support.
“Everybody took time off,” Swanger said. “We’re enjoying all things Maine. We ate a lot of lobster” to prepare of the departure.
Col. Ouellette said that some of the soldiers, including Swanger, were tapped from different Maine Guard units to fulfill the jobs required for the deployment.
Ouellette also deployed with the unit, formerly known as the 240th Engineer Group, when it last mobilized in 2006 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Afghanistan.
At that time, instant messaging was something new, his wife said.
“It was such a treat if he was on at the same time,” she said. This time, “We made sure his Facetime was set up already” so the family can communicate via video face-to-face.
In July, it was announced that six members of Bangor-based Detachment 3, 2nd Battalion, 641st Aviation Regiment would also be heading to Asia this fall. There are 28 members of the Maine Air National Guard currently overseas, Brig. Gen. Douglas Farnham, adjutant general for the Maine National Guard and commissioner of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, said.