Hundreds of soldiers and their families packed the Frankfort convention center as they prepared to say goodbye. Those those soldiers said they're excited about their upcoming mission to the Horn of Africa.
"I'm very excited! I'm ready to go!" exclaimed Sergeant Alexa Becerra.
Kentucky National Guard Adjutant General Edward Tonini and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Ludergan Grimes were on hand to see the more than 500 soldiers off.
"We're one of the first Kentucky Guard units to deploy to Africa so it's different. It's not like Iraq or Afghanistan," said Sgt. Becerra.
Kentucky Guard officials say their mission is to promote stability in the Horn of Africa and to protect US and coalition interests there. They say they'll be starting out in Djibouti.
"A lot of us don't know what to expect because we haven't been deployed over there," said Sgt. Becerra. She said she'd been reading up on the region.
"Yes I have, you know, the culture, the language, all that," she said.
This Lexington-based unit has already completed tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. They expect to be deployed for about nine months.