GA National Guard units return to Fort Stewart from Afghanistan
March 5, 2010
<b>FORT STEWART, Ga. </b>- Georgia's 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry is the third group - and so far, the largest - of Georgia's 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to arrive at Truscott Air Terminal at Hunter Army Airfield from their year-long deployment in Afghanistan.
The more than 400 citizen-Soldiers touched down in two waves, with some coming in around 11:15 p.m., Feb. 28, and the remaining troopers at about 3 a.m., March 1.
The 1/108th Cav. headquarters is in Calhoun, Ga. Other 108th units are home stationed in Rome (Troop A), Dalton (Troop B) and Canton (Troop C). Also home from Afghanistan is Cedartown's Company D, 148th Brigade Support Battalion, which provides logistics support to the cavalry.
The 1/108th Cav. troopers are among the more than 2,000 citizen-Soldiers who left in June 2009 to spend a year supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Their mission was to train and mentor the Afghan National Army and National Police.
"I think if you ask any one of us, we're really proud of the work we did over there, but someone like me, being back, well it's a great weight off my shoulders," said Sgt. 1st Class Joe Dyer, who leads Troop A's third platoon. "As a leader, I'm not only concerned about getting the mission done right, I'm concerned about the safety of my Soldiers. I thank the Lord that I'm lucky enough not to have lost anyone over there, and that they're all home now, safe and sound."
Sergeant First Class Dyer, an employee of Polk County Sheriff's Office, said he was referring to the loss suffered by Troop A's second platoon on June 4, 2009, when Sgt.1st Class John C. Beal was killed by insurgents near Kapisa, Afghanistan.
After turning in their weapons, the 108th Cav. Soldiers boarded buses for the ride to Fort Stewart, where they were met by loved ones waiting to welcome them home at Cottrell Parade Field.
It's there that Lt. Col. Randal Simmons, the 108th Cav. commander, reported to Brig. Gen. Maria Britt, Georgia Army Guard commander, that his unit had completed its mission and that it had come home.
"Welcome back to the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, and welcome home," said Brig. Gen. Britt. "Be proud of what you accomplished while in Afghanistan for you have been more than successful in that mission."
Lieutenant Colonel Simmons said he believed that when his troopers left Afghanistan, they left its army improved and in better shape than they'd found it.
"Because of the commitment and dedication these Soldiers [1/108th Cav.], the Afghan army and the National Police have a pride they never before had," he said.
During the ceremony Brig. Gen. Britt and Col. Woody Radcliff, intelligence officer for Georgia's Joint Forces Headquarters, introduced Donna Blair of Calhoun, and the widow of 1st Sgt. John Blair.
First Sergeant Blair was the senior enlisted leader of Lawrenceville's Company A, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry when he died in combat on June 20, 2009. Donna, who appeared before the crowd of more than 600 holding an American flag, wiped away tears during the introduction.
Among the Families who rushed the 1/108th Cav. formation when the ceremony ended was that of Spc. William Riley Brock, a scout with Rome's Troop A, who returned from his first deployment.
"We're elated that he's home and that he's home safe," said Spc. Brock's stepfather, Chris Watson, as the trooper's mother, Patricia, grandmother, sister Christy and Tiffany Smith and grandmother Larene Abney gathered around the Soldier. "It's been tough having him (away), on us and on him, with all that he's seen and been through, but he's home now and we just couldn't be happier or prouder of him."
Now that 1/108th Cav. is back on home soil, it'll take a little more than a week for its Soldiers to come off active duty and move back to their traditional Guard status. Once that's done, they report to their armories, and then home for some well-earned down time.
As for Spc. Brock, he intends to study nursing at Georgia Highlands Technical College's Floyd County campus after he's rested.
"Got to get my degree and do something I really love as much as the Guard," Spc. Brock said.