Guam - It's the biggest deployment the island has ever seen and, family and friends of the 600 National Guard members packed the University of Guam Field House for a bittersweet sendoff. It's a deployment that will impact the entire island and according to adjutant general of the Guam National Guard Benny Paulino, transparency has been priority from day one when the Guard received a notification of sourcing eighteen months ago.

"This notification told us that the battalion was on the list of units that were being considered for mobilization this also meant that we had to mentally and emotionally prepare our battalion soldiers, their families and our organization for the possibility of deployment," the major general said.

Paulino says the 600 deploying troops to support Operation Enduring Freedom represent the best the island and the region have to offer. "Our deploying soldiers represents the whole island and the region - they come from each and every village on the island from Yigo to the southernmost villages of Inalahan, Malesso, and Umatac," he said.

Although they'll be far from home, Paulino says it's obvious the troops will stay close in our hearts with symbols of support including the movement of tying yellow ribbons throughout the island. But support shouldn't end when the troops return home early next year. Paulino says 20% of the deploying soldiers are unemployed, and although they'll return home veterans, they'll be looking for jobs.

"One of the biggest issues confronting soldiers when they return from their tour of duty is unemployment this is a major concern at the national level. Soldiers returning from deployment have a much higher unemployment rate than the rest of the nation," Paulino said.

The 600 will officially leave Guam starting next Friday.