693rd Engineer Company returns to Fort Drum
Sgt. 1st Class William Dean, a platoon sergeant assigned to 693rd Engineer Company, kisses his wife and holds his child as they welcome him home from Afghanistan during a redeployment ceremony at Monti Physical Fitness Center.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Seeing your Soldier for the first time in nearly a year can be an exciting and emotional time. For Soldiers assigned to 693rd Engineer Company, 7th Engineer Battalion, it was a proud and moving experience seeing their loved ones sitting across the room on the bleachers awaiting their return.

More than 80 Soldiers from the company returned home July 10 from Afghanistan where they had conducted nine months of route clearance and foot patrol missions.

Guest speaker for the redeployment ceremony, Col. Carl A. Alex, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commander -- support, spoke about some of the hardships Soldiers deal with during a deployment and thanked the Families for their support.

During the deployment, the Sappers supported multiple joint mission objectives in southern Afghanistan. They endured numerous weeklong route clearance missions, but they always kept their morale up.

"I couldn't be more proud of our Sappers and what we've done this deployment," said Capt. Daniel Robledo, 693rd Engineer Company commander. "We've cleared over 14,000 kilometers on over 280 missions totaling over 2,000 hours on patrol. Our familiarity with the area we worked in is something we share with only a brave few.

"Above all, we executed every mission with professionalism," he continued. "Our Sappers have allowed us to return home with honor."

While the Soldiers were overseas, the family readiness group members were hard at work putting together care packages for the Soldiers during their deployment, as well as a few surprises for single Soldiers when they returned to the barracks.

The FRG leader, Master Sgt. Melissa Behnkendorf, 10th Mountain Division assistant inspector general and wife of the company first sergeant, organized towel sets, bedding, pillows, toiletries and personalized keepsakes from local nonprofit organizations and Family Members of the Soldiers.

"Local support from the community has been outstanding," Behnkendorf said. "We were able to get bedding from a nonprofit organization called Littlethanx, and Operation Troop Appreciation was able to provide towel sets and pillows for all of the single Soldiers. The USO and Army Community Service also contributed toiletry kits and personalized poster boards for the Soldiers."

Some single Soldiers might return from a deployment to an empty barracks room, which can have a negative effect on morale.

"We received boxes -- from parents -- full of items and keepsakes that they wanted placed in their Soldier's room after we reached out to them," Behnkendorf said. "Being military myself, I know how terrible of a feeling it is to come back to an empty room, so that's where we wanted to make the difference."

(Cameron serves with 7th Engineer Battalion.)

Page last updated Wed July 24th, 2013 at 15:57