(WTNH) — More than 50 Connecticut National Guard soldiers are now heading to Kosovo. The First Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment deployed Sunday as part of NATO’s Kosovo force.

Their mission is to help keep a safe and secure environment, but the toughest part for the National Guard members is leaving family and friends for the next year.

Staff Sgt. Jessica Thomas told News 8, “It’s also exciting – we get to learn a lot of new things and put our skills to use that we practice on a daily basis to complete the mission.”

First Sgt. Steven Leach added, “We’re going to be there to be peacekeepers, support NATO. It’s a little bit different than going to Iraq or Afghanistan. I think the fulfillment from the mission is going to be great.”

Some of the soldiers deployed Sunday have been on the frontlines supporting the state’s efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.