Their deployment comes as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan called for more troops and other aid as quickly as possible in order to combat a rising insurgency.
It was a time for good-bye hugs, pictures with loved ones and precious playtime with their children.
Seventy California National Guardsmen readied to go on a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, just as the top American military commander there said he needs more troops as soon as possible to stabilize the region.
"Pray for their safety, pray for the success of our mission and pray that God speed us a safe and quick return," said Unit Commander Maj. Daniel Anderson.
This unit whose members span the entire state will be going to an increasingly dangerous area. Violence throughout Afghanistan is on the rise because waves of foreign fighters have been coming in from the lawless regions of neighboring Pakistan.
"I think we are in a tough fight. So the idea that it might get worse before it gets better is certainly a possibility," said NATO Commander Gen. David Mc Kiernan.
More U.S soldiers have died in Afghanistan already this year than in any year since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
These soldiers who specialize in medical evacuations, though, can't think about the increased risk.
"I just go over and do my job. I try not to think about things like that and do what I'm trained to do. Bring as many guys home as I can alive," said Sgt. Aaron DeCanio from the California National Guard.
But their families must prepare for the worst.
"It's hard. I don't want to think like that. But you tend to a little bit, and you wonder: 'What you're going to do. What would you do? How would do it?" said military wife Margo Smoot.
For several of the Guardsmen, this will be their second tour to Afghanistan.