Paratroopers from 82nd Airborne's 4th BCT depart for Afghanistan

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Roughly 250 paratroopers left Fort Bragg on Friday, bound for Afghanistan and a mission to train Afghan forces.

The soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment are the first group to deploy from the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, which is expected to send upwards of 1,000 troops from two battalions to Afghanistan by the end of next month.

Family, friends and fellow soldiers met at the battalion headquarters to see off the deploying soldiers, who lingered with loved ones before loading onto buses bound for Pope Field's Green Ramp.

Spc. Joshua Brenneman steadied himself with his wife, Kerry, and daughter, Ella.

Brenneman said he will be deploying for the first time, and Ella is a little more than 5 months old.

"It's every emotion," he said. "I'm excited. I'm nervous."

The couple, like many other battalion families, had an early Christmas celebration during the Thanksgiving holiday.

"We are as prepared as possible," said Kerry Brenneman. "But yesterday it hit us. We're not ready."

That was a common sentiment across the battalion as families grappled with conflicting feelings.

Some soldiers were excited for the deployment. Others dreaded leaving their friends and family.

Spc. Andrew Foster said it would be difficult to be away from his wife, Lindsey, and son, 2-year-old Charlie.

Charlie was only 4-months-old when Foster last deployed, and he said he dreaded missing more time in his son's life.

Others, such as Staff Sgt. Mirko Maravi, said he was eager to start the new mission.

"I'm just ready to go," he said as he waited with his family. "I'm ready to get there and get settled in."

Maravi will be deploying for the fifth time in his 13-year Army career. It'll be his second time in Afghanistan.

Leading up to the deployment, families milled about in the battalion complex. Some brought family pets, others were swarmed by extended family.

Cpl. Grant Graham could be found surrounded by family and friends, including his grandfather, retired Lt. Col. Bob Vermette.

Vermette served in Vietnam and was the inspiration for his grandson to join the military.

Graham, who will be deploying for his second tour overseas, said it was special to have his grandfather see him off for the first time.

He'll carry his grandfather's holster with him on the deployment - the same holster Vermette wore in Vietnam.

"Hopefully, I can pass it down to another relative one day," Graham said.

Vermette, who wore a "Vietnam Veteran" ball cap, said it was good to be able to see his grandson off.

"I like it," he said. "I have flashbacks from when I was in the same situation."

The deployment will be among the last for the 4th Brigade Combat Team before the brigade is disbanded next year as part of an Army reorganization that will see most 4th Brigade battalions placed under other units within the 82nd Airborne.

The 4th Brigade was formed in 2006 but has deployed repeatedly over its short history. The latest deployments mark the fifth time elements of the brigade have deployed.

A second group of soldiers from the battalion is expected to deploy next week. All told, 450 paratroopers from the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, will deploy across Afghanistan.

About the same number of troops from the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment will join them after the New Year.

In Afghanistan, they'll work with a host of Fort Bragg units.

The 82nd Sustainment Brigade and 1st Theater Sustainment Command are already in country, as are various smaller units and some of Fort Bragg's Special Operations forces.

The 18th Airborne Corps is scheduled to deploy early next year.

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