Adkins sees another challenge.

"Individuals that are used to significant resources over the last 10 or 12 years, we're going into a more sparse environment where they've got to be good stewards of the resources that are given," he said. "Because there's obviously going to be less as our nation tackles the fiscal challenges that we have right now."

First Lt. Sid Hays is the commander of the 244th Engineer Co. After Afghanistan, he's hoping the unit will spend more time with its neighbors. Members are teaming with the Baltimore City Fire Department to do work at the Engine Co. 45 firehouse in Northeast Baltimore.

"What I would like to do when we get back is really get more involved within the community," Hays said. "Especially in Baltimore, where we're located, making sure that the community knows that we're there, and that we're a resource for them."

For now, Hays and the rest are focused on their deployment. Pennington, who served in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009, was looking forward to going back.

"Being there at the end will us give us a historical perspective on how we left it," he said. "We'll all know exactly how Afghanistan was at the time the U.S. pulled out, and we'll see how it goes from there."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

twitter.com/matthewhaybrown

Md. National Guard by the numbers

3,946 – Members who have served in Afghanistan since 9/11

4 – Members killed in Afghanistan

394 – Members currently in Afghanistan

147 – Members of 244th Engineer Co. heading to Afghanistan

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