Pvt. David Atherton plays with his niece Abigail after a send-off ceremony for the 972nd Military Police Company of the National Guard at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The company will be deployed for nine months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Tamir Kalifa for The Boston Globe)
Private David Atherton plays with his niece Abigail after a sendoff ceremony for his military police company.
Tamir Kalifa for The Boston Globe

Friends, family, and elected officials gathered at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center today for a sendoff ceremony for about 130 soldiers of the 972nd Military Police Company, including three Boston firefighters, who are being deployed to Qatar, the National Guard said.

Spc. Sean Cross embraces his mother, Debra, after a send-off ceremony for the 972nd Military Police Company of the National Guard at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The company will be deployed for nine months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Tamir Kalifa for The Boston Globe)
Specialist Sean Cross embraces his mother, Debra, after the sendoff ceremony. (Tamir Kalifa for The Boston Globe)
The Boston Globe

The company, based at the National Guard’s Camp Curtis Guild in Reading, received nine-month mobilization orders to “perform force protection missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” the National Guard said in a statement.

“It was an acknowledgment of what these soldiers are going to be doing for the country and to let their families know that they have the support to help them,” said Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. “We were proud to be a very small part of their ceremony.”

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The deployment will be the MP company’s third since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The company was deployed to Pakistan and Uzbekistan between 2002 and 2003, and to Iraq between 2007 and 2008, according to the National Guard. The unit also provided security support at Logan International Airport between 2001 and 2002 and at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, officials said.

“On behalf of the Commonwealth, I thank the Massachusetts Army National Guard 972nd Military Police Company for their service and I wish them safety and success in Qatar,” Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement.

Patrick spoke at today’s ceremony, which was originally slated to be held at Fort Independence at Castle Island, but was moved due to inclement weather.

“Massachusetts is proud to support our military servicemen and women as they travel overseas to protect our country’s freedom and when they return home from service,” Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray said in a statement. “Our prayers and thoughts are always with them and their families, and we wish them a safe deployment and return home.”

Many members of the company work as law enforcement officials, including State Police, local police, and firefighters, according to MacDonald.