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Civilian-Marines deploy to Afghanistan, Kuwait

By Marti Gatlin | | April 15, 2011

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Four Maintenance Center Albany civilian-Marines departed April 6 from Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany for service in Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Brandon Cook and Kenneth Henderson, both heavy mobile equipment mechanics, are providing support for the Joint Program Office/Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected all-terrain vehicles in Afghanistan for up to one year. Ronald Parrish, a heavy mobile equipment mechanic, and Prakune Thongbai, a line machinist, are providing support of Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle maintenance in Kuwait for up to one year.

Col. Terry Reid, commander, MCA, families and friends bid farewell to the group before they boarded for their flight.

“Whenever we have them deployed, whether it’s one or whether it’s 10, I want to be here to support them and their families because it’s so important to us what they do over there and I want them to realize that and know that,” he said.

Both Cook and Henderson are deploying to Afghanistan for the first time.

Cook has served three tours in Iraq from the Maintenance Center Albany-2006, 2007 and 2008, which helped him prepare for his current deployment, he said.

“It feels good,” the 28-year-old said, noting he received special training to prepare him for his deployment. “It gives me some sense of importance. We don’t need a vehicle to break down because it will affect the warfighter. How you originally rebuild (a vehicle here), the quality of your work will be reflected in the field. In theater the quality matters there. I’m going along to make sure the quality (of work) continues for the vehicles.”

Even though Henderson, from Tifton, Ga., is deploying to Afghanistan for the first time, he’s no stranger to deployments. He’s deployed to Kuwait and Iraq.

“It gives me a good feeling,” the 47-year-old said. “I know the equipment they need to do their jobs, (and) if I can keep them doing their jobs, I feel better about mine.”

Before his flight, Henderson’s wife, Vickie, and son, William, 22, spent time with him.

“(I) want him to come home safe,” Vickie said.

She added she will pray for her husband’s safe return and keep in touch with him via phone while he’s gone.

Williams, who is studying computer networking at Moultrie Technical College in Moultrie, Ga., said he didn’t like his dad deploying, but was “proud of him. He helps others so they can do their jobs safely. I’m taking care of mom while dad is gone.”

Parrish described his upcoming trip as interesting and said he volunteered so he could gain a better perspective of the work accomplished at MCA.

“A lot of good guys are going with me, which makes it worthwhile,” he said. “I’ve been out at the maintenance center since 1971 and I think it’s about time to see what you do, what products you’re putting out. I’m looking forward to it.”

His friend, Phyllis Diamond, said goodbye to him at the airport.

“I’ll be here waiting for him when he gets back,” she said.

From Sylvester, Ga., Thongbai, 35, hugged his family while he waited for his flight. He deployed to Iraq in 2008. His wife, Jamlonglak; daughter, Aunna, 3; daughter, Mia, 1; mom, Ranee Brooker; and brother, Ted, came to see him off.

“(There are) no words to describe leaving family,” Thongbai said. “(We’ll) keep in touch as much as possible. I don’t cut corners; a lot of lives depend on what I do. My brother-in-law is a Marine.”

Jamlonglak noted it will be hard to take care of her daughters while her husband is away from home.

“I will keep busy with the girls and try to talk to him every day if I can,” she said.


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