Deploying with a message

In a Missouri deployment tradition, Gov. Jay Nixon presents the state flag to Col. Mariah Best, the youngest member of the 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Maj. Gen, Steve Danner, left foreground, presents the U.S. flag to First Sgt. Mary Williams, right, who is the unit’s oldest member.

In a Missouri deployment tradition, Gov. Jay Nixon presents the state flag to Col. Mariah Best, the youngest member of the 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Maj. Gen, Steve Danner, left foreground, presents the U.S. flag to First Sgt. Mary Williams, right, who is the unit’s oldest member. Photo by Julie Smith.

“The pen is mightier than the sword,” was a common saying among speakers at Monday’s deployment ceremony for eight members of the 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment at Missouri National Guard headquarters.

Not only are the individuals soldiers, they are also print and broadcast journalists and communications professionals.

The unit will deploy to Afghanistan for a nine-month deployment, where they will train, advise and assist Afghan media representatives and provide public and command information services in support of combined, unified and joint operations.

Following Monday’s 9 a.m. ceremony, the unit was scheduled to travel to Fort Dix, N.J., before traveling to Afghanistan. The unit attended pre-deployment training at Camp Crowder, near Neosho. It is commanded by Maj. Frank Analla and its first sergeant is Mary Williams.

The 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment was deployed to Germany in 1998 in support of stabilization operations in Bosnia. It was also deployed to Guantanamo Bay as part of the Global War on Terrorism in 2003 and in support of Kosovo Forces-10 in March 2008.

“You have the opportunity to leave a positive impact and that’s a noteworthy legacy,” said Jefferson City Mayor Eric Struemph at the ceremony.

Representatives from Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen. Roy Blunt’s offices read letters from the senators stating their support for the unit.

“You are serving in defense to protect our way of life,” Blunt said in his letter. “Your contribution is a vital piece of our national defense.”

McCaskill’s letter said the soldiers’ allegiance and bravery captures the ideals of the United States.

“Defending one’s country is the highest form of citizenship,” she said.

Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner said 50 percent of the unit’s soldiers are already veterans who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or other deployments.

At the ceremony, Gov. Jay Nixon reminded the unit that they have the support of six million Missourians.

“As you leave here, go with confidence that the people of your state are giving you their whole-hearted support,” Nixon said.

He said he knows the unit will complete its mission with distinction and honor.

“On behalf of the people of Missouri, I wish you a safe and successful mission,” he said.

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