National Guard troops to deploy to Afghanistan: Troops to spend year training Afghani counterparts

SAN DIEGO - Family and friends of local National Guard troops gathered in Mission Valley on Tuesday for a send-off. Seventy soldiers will be leaving Southern California for a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan.

In a year, the face of a loving dad might seem a little unfamiliar to little Kayla.

"She's 16 months now and she'll be turning 2 without him, and I say she'll be talking and she'll have hair when you come back," said Chastity Burchuk, Kayla's mother.

Kayla's dad, Capt. George Burchuk, will be deployed for nearly a year.

Burchuk is worried his little girl might forget him.

"Using Skype as much as I can," he said. "I got a few books that I brought so we both have the same books and I'll be able to read those to her."

Burchuk will be deployed with troops from around California. They gathered in Mission Valley on Tuesday for a sendoff with family and friends.

The 70 National Guard troops are heading to the Uruzgan province in Afghanistan. For three years, they have been training to work with Afghani forces. The troops will train their Afghani counterparts and be the last standing U.S. force before the province is tuned over for good.

"I think we have the skill set that we're pretty comfortable going over," said Burchuk. "We'll be training with the Australians, so we'll be linking up with them very shortly."

Despite how well-trained they may be, the mission is dangerous. Most American troops are pulling out of Afghanistan, as these National Guard troops are moving in.

The risk will never be far from Katie O'Keefe.

"It's my best friend who's leaving me," she said. "So, the hardest part will be wondering if he's safe and where he is and stuff like that."

Her husband, Sgt. Dennis O'Keefe, is going overseas for the first time since they have been married. She'll only have to rely on the other troops' families to get through a long year.

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