Nebraska National Guard soldiers, airmen prepare for mission in U.S. Virgin Islands

Dozens of Nebraska National Guard soldiers and airmen in the 67th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade will deploy Sunday on a month-long mission in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The men and women will leave their jobs and families back home to help areas still reeling from Hurricane Maria.

Fifty-six soldiers and two airmen with the Nebraska National Guard will head to the island of St. Croix on a mission they had only days to prepare for, but one many said they’re eager to complete.

“The morale meter is very high today,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Griffith. “The soldiers and airmen are just pretty excited to go help out, do what they’re trained to do.”

Many of them attended a final briefing at the National Guard armory in Lincoln Saturday morning, just a day before they leave for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“(We’ll) provide command and control over security, health care, transportation, logistics and aviation, military assets in support of those relief efforts,” said Col. Craig Strong, Commander of the 67th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

The unit will relieve a brigade from Virginia and lead other National Guard soldiers on the islands of St. Croix and St. Martin.

“They’re prepared, they’re trained, they know what their jobs are and they’re ready just to go help,” said Griffith.

The Nebraska soldiers and airmen in the brigade learned of their assignments just days in advance.

“I was excited to go,” said Staff Sgt. Reiny Dickhaut of the Nebraska Air National Guard. “This will be actually my first time activating in circumstances other than training or education, so it’s going to be a new experience. I’m excited for the challenge.”

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Serving his duties as an airman means Dickhaut will have to leave his job at the Merrick County Sheriff’s Office. Other soldiers will miss out on family experiences.

“Missing my son’s end of his high school football season and hopefully the state play-offs,” Strong said.

However, it’s the job they took on and one they’re proud to do.

“Feels good,” said Sgt. Chase Quinn of the Nebraska Army National Guard. “U.S. Territory, help our own people out.”

“Certainly a sense of duty, a sense of selflessness and some honor that this is what we sign up for, this is what we do,” said Griffith.

The brigade will leave Lincoln Sunday morning. Its mission is expected to last 30 days.