NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Saturday, around 200 members of the Illinois Army National Guard 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade prepared for deployment to Djibouti, Africa, with a ceremony at Heartland Community College, where the Brigade is headquartered.

Illinois National Guard Adjutant General Richard Neely said those deployed will be supporting the Horn of Africa Combined Task Force.

“What’s special about this mission is, this unit will actually be supporting the command and control of our forces across Africa, building partner capacity with many of the African nations, so their mission is very unique,” said Major General Neely.

Lieutenant Aaron Deal said he feels a mixture of emotions, a day before heading off.

“Excitement, nervousness, but very confident that I’ll be able to do the mission to the best of my abilities,” said Deal.

He added, he feels the many hours of training they’ve endured have prepared them for their mission in Africa.

“It’s been a lot, very complex but I think it’s helped us to be a little bit more confident and aware of what we’re getting in to, with everything going on, especially during a pandemic, and I think we’re going to be very very well prepared for this deployment,” said Deal.

Major General Neely said the soldiers deploying are sacrificing a lot, and thanked their families for always supporting their soldiers.

“This year long mission will be significant for family members, that’ll have to say goodbye to their soldiers tomorrow,” said Major General Neely.

Lieutenant Deal said besides family, the community has been a support system for them as well.

“They’ve done a good job of just always reaching out, saying ‘we’ll be here for you, whenever you need, if there’s a way we can send you things in terms of supporting you,’ and just being that huge line of support has been super beneficial,” said Deal.