Florida National Guard unit deploying to Middle East

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Sunday, January 07, 2018, 9:55 PM EST

About 120 members of the Florida National Guard are being deployed to the Middle East.

  • Florida National Guard unit deploying to Middle East
  • Troops will be deployed for one year
  • Hundreds attended a ceremony in Lakeland on Sunday

The soldiers are members of the 3rd of the 116th Field Artillery Battalion. They'll be supporting “Operation Spartan Shield, which includes defending the United States against the threat of terrorism and extremism and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, according to the United States Army.

This is the first field artillery combat mission within the Florida Army National Guard since WWII, according to the battalion’s high ranking leaders.

Hundreds attended the troops’ deployment ceremony in Lakeland on Sunday, held at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

“These [troops] are going to be going into harms way. My wife and I will be praying for them every day just to make sure they come back safe,” said Gov. Rick Scott, who attended the ceremony.

The soldiers will be deployed for one year. It’s a long time for their loved ones.

“I’m sad about having to be alone for a whole year with our babies. That’s the worst part I guess,” said Julia Beeson, whose husband is being deployed for the second time.

“It’s definitely going to be hard. This whole year was hard just thinking about it. I’m hoping it will go by quickly,” said Nicole Abrams, whose fiancé is being deployed.

The couple plans to wed soon after he returns.

Governor Scott, a Navy veteran, said he knows first-hand what these families are going through.

“You know it is nice now that they’ll have a better time to talk to them through FaceTime, through Skype and things like that but still they’re not home, they’re not able to put in the bed, give them a hug. You really feel sorry for the families,” Gov. Scott said.

Scott said the Florida National Guard has been deployed more than 100 times since September 11, 2001.